Driving is driving me mad

Oct. 4, 2002, midnight | By Stephen Wertheim | 18 years, 3 months ago

The driver's license is just a ticket, well, to tickets

At long last, I have procured my driver's license. This came as somewhat of a surprise to me given my adherence to the three-step method of parallel parking, in which I hit the car to my rear, smash the van to my front and speed off searching for another space.

But whether I've earned my license is, I'd say, quite immaterial. The important thing is that the Motor Vehicle Administration thinks I have, or at least it doesn't want to bother filling out the rejection papers lest its personnel become diverted from their usual task of telling people to wait longer.

And so, I've got it—the big ticket to unparalleled freedom and exciting social opportunity. What incredible new privileges, I mused, before quickly discovering that I have, in fact, gained the freedom mainly to buy gas and the social opportunity to grunt at the Exxon attendant or, if we're feeling especially gregarious, exchange mumbles.

I don't want to drive. I can't believe I wanted to in the first place. Why should anyone desire to sit in traffic, perpetually stuck behind a Metro bus, steering with one hand and thrashing away at diesel fumes with the other?

The truth is, the best thing about driving is getting out of the car. Otherwise, fear dominates my experience. On 50-mile-per-hour roads, I'm crawling along as if I'm about to pull up to my retirement condo in Florida. This hesitancy, I've determined, is attributable to two factors:

First, even when she's not present, I can hear my mother yelling at me to watch out for the car that's three miles away and going five miles per hour, and second, the traffic cameras.

The idea of the FBI spying on my phone conversations doesn't really bother me, but these cameras they've installed are absolutely terrifying. I know someone who got caught by one of them. You open the letter. The finality is so arrogant: your car, middle of the intersection, red light staring right back at you. Each ticket is $75, and there's definitely no arguing that in traffic court.

"Officer, exactly what am I here for? Because the law, as I remember it, says you can't run a red light when cops are present. What's going on? Did they change the rule on us? I've never heard of this new camera thing. Couldn't they at least screw in some whirling lights and a big annoying siren to let us know?"

If the government is sneaking these cameras around, it's going to make a fortune. I don't want to hear about a budget deficit; we've got traffic cameras.

This is why I would never want a fast car. What's all that
horsepower going to do for you anyway when you've got a red light and you're stuck behind ten Chevy Suburbans?

What we really need are some laws working for us, the drivers. Because I think if I can be fined for committing a traffic violation, the reverse can also be true. When I want to get somewhere in ten minutes and it's bumper to bumper and that same trip takes me an hour and a half, then I think traffic has violated me. It really is a two-way street here!

Where's my $75 for showing up late at, say, the Motor Vehicle Administration?

"Hey, sorry I couldn't make it, but traffic's been violatin' me pretty bad today. Do I collect the money from you or the guy at the front?"

I'll probably have to wait longer.

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Stephen Wertheim. Co-editor-in-chief Stephen Wertheim is deeply committed to reporting, even when it conflicts with such essential life activities as food consumption, sleep and viewership of Seinfeld reruns. In addition to getting carried away with writing and playing violin, Stephen thoroughly enjoys visiting and photographing spots around … More »

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