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    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Texas Drivers

    I'm eating crow. Lots of it. Every day my wife ribs me as we drive around Houston looking for houses or taking her to tennis lessons.

    "I thought you said Texas drivers were good?"

    "I did."

    "Well, I don't see that," she replies. "Nobody here is courteous. They're worse than Utah drivers."

    "Now, don't say that! They haven't stooped that low!" I retort.

    What's this world coming to when a smoking grandma tries to get you to rear-end her
    But the truth is, they're coming close. Why? When I grew up here, drivers were courteous. They stopped with room to spare at lights to let merge out of parking lots and into traffic. They drove at that general lackadaisical pace found on the farms that "farm roads" are supposed to lead to (FM 529--farm road 529--is NOT a farm road anymore!). Sure, driving wasn't perfect--drivers weren't perfect--but people generally were nice, and after being helped out once, you typically returned the favor, spawning this viral good deed driving atmosphere.

    Today things are different. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only driver on the road still doing the things listed above. Drivers drive fast, the ride bumpers to make a Southern Californian jealous. When I first got into town, my mother drove the family to the Museum of Natural Science. Someone tried to get over, put on his or her blinker, and my mother sped up.

    "I can't let them in. They'll put me farther behind."

    WHAT!? Then she proceeded to speed up, forcing the car to merge farther back, and then slammed on her brakes because she was riding the rear bumper of a SUV that was slowing. My heart leapt into my throat.

    Driving has been hard for my wife. She has almost no experience driving in traffic like this, and our old car was a 1990 Toyota Camry held together by duct tape and chewing gum. It leaked more oil than it burned, and burned more than it used. Hopefully, she can take backroads as she gets used to a new car and roads.

    For me, I still have the roads memorized. There are some new street lights where we used to have stopsigns, and stores where there was cow pastures, but generally the layout is the same. I've driven in Utah and SoCal, so I can manage the cutthroat practices here. The impetus for this rant came two days ago, when I almost got in an accident.

    I was traveling down West Road, after dropping my wife off at tennis class. This area of West Rd. is four lanes, divided by a marge median with trees and grass. So two lanes one way, two the other. The oncoming two lanes were packed, as people returned home from work during rush hour. My lanes were generally empty because I'm driving east, into town.

    I'm driving along at the speed limit, 40mph, left lane, with one silver car in front of me in the right lane. West Rd cuts through subdivisions in
    If the lane I just came from wasn't empty, I'd be in that car's back bumper right now
    this area, so there is a light at the intersection into one subdvision with my old elementary school, Fiest, and then another light maybe 200 ft past because of a blind turn into the intersection on the left. My entrance is on the right just past the second light.

    Well, I passed the first light and switched over to the right lane because i will turn just after the second light. It turns yellow.

    "Man, I just got into this lane behind the silver car," I thought. "I guess I'll move back because there's not a lot of room to stop and I'll be first at the light."

    There were no other cars.

    As I start to shift back to the left lane, the silver car in front of me slams on its breaks forcing me to cut over quickly so I don't hit it.

    "What the heck?" I think to myself. "If the lane I just came from wasn't empty, I'd be in that car's back bumper right now."

    I wasn't following inordinately close, the car just stopped really quickly. Whipping into the left lane, I look over and see an old gray-haired woman, about 70, lighting a cigarette. Her car comes to a complete stop a full 2 car lengths before the light. There's only about 200 ft or so between lights!

    Gathering my wits before me, I moved back into the right hand lane since I needed to turn right. Mind you, I'm not cutting this smoking grandma off. Even with me in the right hand lane, there's still a good 12 feet between us. The light turns green, I take off, and the grandma speeds up, cuts into the left lane behind a car that caught up to us, and proceeds to give me the evilest glare as she passes me.

    What's this world coming to when a smoking grandma tries to get you to rear-end her, stops multiple car lengths from the light, the gives you the evil-eye as she passes?? Beware Houston drivers.

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