Heading South

A previous version of this appeared on my blog at www.robslater.com

When I drive I like to maximize my gas mileage and minimize my time on the road. I speed a little, never more than eight or nine miles over in a 60–70 m.p.h. zones. I like cruise control because it keeps the inertia going and minimizes the need for acceleration. Splitting my time between Bellingham and Mount Vernon, Washington means that either I or my partner Elena have a 35 minute minimum commute. It used to be closer to 30 minutes, but an increase in traffic on I-5 and on the train tracks running alongside has made it 40–45 minutes on many days. Last week I had a fifteen minute wait for a coal train and the trip took an hour!

So, there are times that I dream of the roads being as clear as they are in my post-pandemic apocalyptic Deserted Lands universe. My biggest frustration is the inattentive drivers who cruise along, plod along in the fast lane doing a couple m.p.h. under the speed limit. Nah, that’s not true. My biggest frustration are their counterparts who drive the same way on purpose only to speed up if I pull into the slow lane to pass them. And let’s not even start [yet*] on the single person in the giant WHITE SUV with the chrome wheels talking on their cell-phone.

Sigh. Breathe. Breathing is good.

So, I have a solution. I call it CARma points. At this point it is a philosophical game I play with myself that seems to increase my parking Karma. If someone lets me in a long line or stops to let the pedestrian cross, I give them a BING, a thumbs up gesture headed their way. Now, if the aforementioned SUV driver cuts me off because their phone conversation took a turn and they didn’t. They get a DING [or more in this case FIVE!*] signified by a tap on the dashboard or a thumbs down in their general direction.

Now what if there were an electronic tally system where these Bings and Dings helped or hindered folks’ insurance rates? Computer systems could make certain that a certain driver does not constantly DING/BING the same person over and over again. If we wanted to curb the negativity, each driver could get a limited number of DINGS and an unlimited supply of BINGS. Give the person driving the classic bio-diesel converted VW Bug three positive BINGS for slowing to let the mini-van merge.

My counselor has suggested that for my own good health I send little LOVE bombs of positivity to the people who are being angrily passive aggressive or clueless. I’m considering his advice. But for the moment, being able to CARmically DING or BING folks keeps me calmer on the road. And yes, if I do something stupid, aggressive or clueless, I DING myself and I try to earn would-be BINGS from other drivers by letting them in and trying to guess in advance when I am going to be causing someone else stress so I can avoid being “that guy” in the car. Like I said, it seems to help me when I’m trying to find a parking space.

*Here is the breakdown on those FIVE DINGS [Yes, some value judgments here.]

  • DING 1: Cutting in front of me without signalling
  • DING 2: Driving gigantic SUV as only a status symbol
  • DING 3: Driving said gigantic SUV alone
  • DING 4: Getting horrible gas mileage in gigantic SUV
  • DING 5: While talking on their cell-phone.
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