Road Rage

It's a shame that tourist season has to coincide with road rage season, but it does. I see stupid driving and near accidents every day now, and not just involving the cars with out-of-state plates driving 8 mph down Main. People are driving the wrong way on one-way streets and blowing through stop signs. Speeding and unsafe passing continue to fill me with paranoia; I'm scared of what other drivers are going to do.

See, I learned to drive in Los Angeles, so defensive driving was ingrained at an early age. It helped that I turned 16 in the '80s, when all the highway shootings were taking place. Someone even shot at my high school boyfriend Greg, who saw the bullet go through his windshield, crouched down and drove straight to the police station. (In the shooter's defense, Greg drove a '77 Chevy Citation with the license plate 2FAST4U. He drove like a maniac, and his life ambition which, incidentally, he realized was to become a highway patrol man. It was not so he could hang with cool guys like Ponch and Jon, but because "then nobody can give me a ticket for driving too fast.")

Years later, after blissfully spending time on the subway in Washington, D.C., and on the bus in Seattle, I ended up in Taiwan, the scariest place to drive on Earth (with the possible exception of India, from what I'm told). The Taiwanese driving philosophy seems to be "anything goes." Feel free to make a U-turn across several lanes of traffic, and as soon as the light turns green, turn left without waiting for through traffic to pass. I feared for my life and sanity.

So it was a relief to return to the States with the plan to move to Durango, a happy little mountain town where surely no one would be in a hurry. My best driving experience had been living on Maui where drivers are mellow and Durango is the mountain equivalent of Maui.

I soon realized my mistake. Because I commute from Durango West and have a job that requires driving around delivering newspapers, I spend more time in the car than I'd like. But I also walk around town harassing our wonderful advertisers, and frequently find myself yelling at vehicles for almost killing me. A few months ago I went into a retail store and the cashier exclaimed, "I saw you almost get hit by a car yesterday!" But it happens so often that I wasn't able to recall which incident she'd seen. "Where was I?" was all I could muster. She looked at me like I was nuts and cautioned, "Be careful out there."

That's not to say that pedestrians are faultless. Last week I had to slam on my brakes on College when I noticed the car to my left and slightly ahead of me do the same. We were nowhere near a crosswalk. As I did, a man sprinted right in front of me pushing a stroller ahead of him. I almost fainted. And don't get me started on the DHS kids on North Main at lunchtime.

But cars have infinitely more power to inflict damage, and that's what really scares me. A few days ago, my husband and I were driving home and a car suddenly started merging into us. The driver hadn't turned on his blinker or even bothered to check to make sure it was safe to change lanes. Luckily, he responded instantly to Bryan's horn honking and my obscenity yelling, and we didn't have to shoot him. But if I owned a gun and weren't a pacifist, I might have.

My paranoia in the car has turned me into a backseat driver at the ripe old age of 31. It's also turned me into the person who drives 35 in a 65 if there's a possibility of black ice, and the person who doesn't try to pass the slowpoke RV if it means passing into oncoming traffic. But try to understand why, and the next time you feel the urge to flip me off, please reconsider and maybe even slow down.

Jen Reeder



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