I'm driving home from work, and I'm coming up on a traffic light that just turned red, and there are two cars in front of me stopped at the light, one in each lane. We've all been there, so you know what's coming.
You have less than two seconds to decide something that can make or break the rest of your day: Which one of the drivers currently sitting at the light is the bigger asshole. Your brain will apply a well-known but rarely mentioned law of traffic signal dynamics that states that the degree of assholishness present in a person's body is directly proportional to the speed at which said person will accelerate from the traffic light when the light turns green. This is immutable.
Your brain sorts through dozens of variables in the space of seconds. Sight, sound, and --to a lesser extent-- smell, will all combine in a split-second of intuition that will either result in a glorious victory shout, or a spewing forth of obscenities.
Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes the relative assholishness doesn't enter into to it, and it becomes strictly a vehicle comparison. Suppose you get a corvette and a minivan. Bam! Corvette, no contest, even if it turns out there's a blind old lady driving. A garbage truck and a Celica? Celica, hands down. Motorcycle and a Caddy? Take the bike, it's a no-brainer.
Sometimes, it's a little tougher. That's what happened to me today.
First, the vehicles. The one on the left: A newish looking 4x4 pickup truck with huge tires, running boards, a rack of lights, and a back window with an american flag. A bumper sticker tells me that if I don't like logging, I can try wiping my ass with plastic.
The one on the right: A rice-boy Honda Civic with 48" rims, an aluminum rear fin the size of an aircraft carrier, and what appears to be a silver coffee can fastened to the tailpipe. This car is bright red, and seems to be thumping up and down to some sort of dance beat. There is also a big, white, HONDA sticker covering the top half of the rear window, just so everyone knows what kind of car it is, because identifying those Hondas can be tricky business.
I instantly realize this one could go either way.
Jim Bob is going to try to smoke Slim Shady, and Slim is going to try to get the drop on Jim Bob. Someone in a minivan is coming up behind me, so I have to take the shot.
I get behind Slim.
I'm feeling pretty good about my decision, because there's some slight "edging-up" going on. He's obviously gonna go for it. I can hear the Zzzzzzzz-ZZZZZZZ of his awesome 4 cylinder, 1.6 liter lawnmower engine whining above the thumping bass. Jim Bob is oblivious -- either he's ignoring Slim, or he's playing it cool because he already knows that the second the light turns green he's going to jag sharply to the right and just bounce the Civic off his giant right-front tire.
From the edge of the traffic signal, I see the light facing the other lanes at the intersection turn yellow, and I get ready. Up ahead about 100 yards, the two lanes merge into one, so I'm hoping Slim gets a big enough lead that I can squeeze in behind him, safely in front of Jim Bob and the slow cow in the minivan.
The light turns green, and.....
...Slim "the douchebag" Shady blows his shift, and I almost drive my car directly into his back seat.
It becomes clear to me that I somehow managed to get behind the only backwards-baseball-cap-wearing-teenaged-asshole who doesn't yet know how to pop a clutch.
I slam on my brakes and the old lady in the minivan on my left, who wisely chose to weld her front bumper to Jim Bob's rear one, passes me like I was standing still, which, of course, I was.
So I guessed wrong. The cold equations failed me. While I am pretty sure the relative assholishness variable was well-played, I neglected to factor in the Poser theorem, which states that there is an inverse relationship between how fast a Honda Civic looks, and how fast it actually is. I think there is an additional corollary that says something about increasing or decreasing the ratio depending upon whether the backwards baseball cap is adjustable or fitted, but I always sucked at math.
I guess it just proves that even if you bolt 500lbs of extra shit in and around your Civic, it doesn't mean it's any faster than it was before, and it doesn't mean that you know how to drive.
I hate it when I guess wrong. Especially in this case, because Jim Bob snagged a win by default. There's no glory in that. None at all.
Speaking of traffic lights, how did we ever convince people behind the wheel of two ton machines to stop, slow down, and go just because a little light tells them to do so?
I think there should be some common-sense applied. Here's a fer-instance. I think that left on red before 6am should be a law. Why? Because every day I come to work at 6am, and every day the traffic light at the intersection leading into our office park is red. This light is always red.
It is 6am, in a deserted office park. It stays red for hours at a time, until it senses a car sitting at it, then it will wait an additional 2-3 minutes, and turn green until it no longer senses cars. Then back to red.
About 4 out of 5 days, I come to this red light, and I look both ways. If I don't see any headlights, I turn left and drive to the parking garage.
I am not retarded. I am not blind. I know what oncoming traffic looks like. I am not a sheep.
I refuse to sit there for ten minutes, by myself, with no other cars in sight, waiting for a stupid little light to decide when I can and can't go. So I take the turn, and get on with my day.
But on that fifth day, it never fails. I turn the corner, and there's some idiot just sitting there at the light. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting. These people are morons, and I want to get out of my car, walk up to their driver's side door, and kick it repeatedly while screaming "Do you SEE any cars coming? DO YOU? DO YOU? TAKE THE TURN FOR GOD'S SAKE!"
But I don't because most of the time they park in the same garage that I do, and when they get out of their cars, it turns out that I know them. I don't like them, and I'll never respect them, but I know them.
Left on red before 6am. Think about it. Every vote counts.