Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Introducing the Dodge Dart Hybrid!

Let us, for a moment, examine driving in California...

At this point I could simply say "California drivers are the worst imaginable; about what I'd imagine if Miss Daisy actually got behind the wheel." That would be an over simplification, however. In reality there seems to be a well orchestrated, and maintained, infrastructure that aids and abets this culturally specific atrocity.

Firstly, the lack of education; Those wishing to gain the privilege of driving in this state need not go through the hassle of driver's education. Truthfully, can we even imagine a room full of hippy/stoner/activist high schoolers trying to grasp the concept of the Y Turn (Why not, man?)? To say nothing of the pure joy of seeing them merge with highway traffic at a terrific 5mph, joint in hand? This sets the stage for what is to follow.

When these hippy/stoner/activists are let loose in the real world and earn enough money to move beyond their 1970s Volvo or Dodge Dart (which exist here in a sort of twisted version of Land of the Lost) they make one of two horribly polarized choices in vehicles. Either they've continued with the activism that so pervades this part of the world and they purchase a tiny little hybrid or; they've gotten a job at a tech firm, make 100K their first year and purchase the largest luxury SUV they can possibly fit into the 6ft high crawl space that San Franciscans like to call a "garage". I think you can see where a world populated by midgets and basketball players would go a bit awry. Eventually the ball players figure out they can shove their way into what ever area the midgets happen to be occupying.

Third, most traditional traffic rules and regulations are merely guidelines. Using a turn signal appears to be voluntary. One wouldn't want to waste all that precious light, now would they? After all, they only put so much of the stuff in each bulb. Four way stops are another exercise in unpredictability. Whereas we from the East take turns crossing lanes of traffic, in California the right of way is given to whomever is running most late for work/yoga class/protest. Since I haven't gotten everyone's schedule emailed to me yet, I'm still figuring this one out.

Now, for the infrastructure and we'll start with traffic lights (unleashing the term "stop and go lights" on the natives is always good for a laugh); California isn't big on using these in any sane way at all. They aren't really timed well to keep traffic flowing for one thing. This is advantageous for those with hybrids, as all that braking keeps the batteries charged. The delay between one sided going red and the perpendicular lane going green averages between .5 seconds and not at all. Turn lanes (when they exist) also generally give that lane about two seconds to react, because we wouldn't want more than one car to turn. The green arrow is also generally reserved for the end, which means the driver still has to wait for oncoming drivers, desperately late for yoga class, to careen through the maybe-yellow/maybe-red light.

As a final anecdote, I present a small example of how institutionalized drivers are to this madness; The traditional procedure for a lane change here is this; Assuming the driver has any intention on letting you know they are about to enter your lane (which means they most certainly are not driving a luxury SUV) they signal and wait for you. At which point the responding California driver condescends to speed up and pass the offending vehicle, thus making room behind them for the hybrid/Dart/Volvo. I, on the other hand, do the proper thing and slow down just a bit to make room for the car. Thus ensuring my continued existence on this planet and making me a nice guy. This so confuses the CA driver, however, that they know no what to make of it. They panic and do absolutely nothing at all, perhaps wondering why I'm toying with them so. I have had the pleasure of giving cars three or four lengths without them taking the opportunity. Speeding up to pass, I see them, only then, change lanes.

Taking the train into work looks more reasonable each day.

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