Close shave while driving on the interstate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2000

Manners take a back seat among some drivers on the interstate. In a fast lane minute they will cut you off, cuss you out, and mow you down.

All of that at 80 mph can make for some close shaves on the interstate, but what amazes me is not those close shaves, but those shaving close.

For years we were content to just eat, drink and occasionally play smacky-mouth while driving, but today’s drivers attend to many tasks. For years, women have endured the wrath of other drivers as we tried to stretch to the rearview mirror, get that lipstick on straight, and maintain a decent distance between us and the car just ahead, but now we have company. Aggressive company. More feats are performed behind the wheel these days than ever happened at a drive-in movie.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Like the drive-in, sometimes the results are disastrous, but frequently the antics go without responsibility. These people come in categories:

· Clipped your car instead of myself. Fortunately, most of these shaver-dudes seem to be using electric shavers though it wouldn’t surprise me to see one lathering up and reaching for the straight-edge before much longer. And it’s not just the men. No, I haven’t see a ‘pit’ or a leg being attended by any shaver-dudettes – not yet – but my friend at UAB Public Radio said she saw a woman plucking hairs from her chinny-chin-chin just the other day. I have seen women pluck eyebrows, steer around the car in front and resume plucking, but never chins. Perhaps she ran out of her hormone-replacement-therapy pills.

·Hooked on phonics or my fender: These people read. Seriously, read. Not like a map or directions or a phone number written hurriedly on the palm of their hand, but books, newspapers, eye charts – well maybe not eye charts, but just about anything else. They just prop it on the steering wheel and read away at 70 mph.

It’s dangerous and it drives the follow-the-rules part of my personality insane, but how do you alert drivers to their transgressions without killing everyone in sight? Blow the horn and risk breaking their concentration so that they veer into your lane and knock you off the bridge into the dark water below? Read over their shoulder? Leave them alone? But they’re breaking the rules.

Actually I don’t remember reading anything in the driver’s manual about not reading, shaving, shampooing your hair, lap driving, or sending in a substitute driver while moving, but we all know there are unwritten rules here!

· Sit, poopsie, sit: These people tool along with animals in their lap. The lapper is usually one of those yippy little dogs that never sits still and little precious is bounding all over the front seat while the lapee struggles to hang on to the dog so he won’t hurt himself. Meanwhile they’re swerving into my lane where I am still worried about the guy who’s going to force me off the bridge in my dry-clean-only Liz Claiborne.

· What the cell – let’s talk: Dialing the phone is the most dangerous time. I shoot across the highway in a hurry if I see someone dialing near me. Talking is bad, but the absolute worst is those who talk and gesture at the same time. Who’s driving? Are we over the bridge yet?

· My lane – all mine: You know this woman. She’s coming up behind you in the fast lane where you are already doing close to 85 to keep from being run over and she starts flashing her lights. These people really irk me because I am always willing to move over and let someone through if I see them coming.

These people don’t wait for manners or defensive driving to kick in, they just floorboard it, come out of nowhere and flash those lights. Now, where I was ready to move over in a heartbeat, the sight of those arrogant flashing lights hardens my heart and make me obstinate, which is dangerous for everyone on the road. (I know a man who slows down to nothing or even taps his brakes if someone tailgates him or flashes lights.)

I still move over for those who are truly more important than myself and must have the lane at all costs, but I move over slow and frequently I give them a little wave as if to say "you have my permission to pass" as they go by or I pretend I am dialing 911 to call the cops on my cell phone.

· The home of the free and the wave of the brave: You know the sign; these people will flip you a hand gesture without giving it a second thought. It’s not like you did anything bad. Maybe you didn’t move over fast enough (85 mph isn’t fast enough?), or they tried to cut in and couldn’t go there, but oops, there is it is. That finger pointed to the sky, and really, how tacky! Now if you flash them back, you could get shot, so don’t do that. People are just not as patient as they used to be with those little signs of communication. Once again, I just give a hearty wave in return like, "Oh yes, how nice of you to say hello."

If you accompany this with a big smile, it really irritates, but it mystifies those drivers around you who wonder how you could be smiling in traffic like this.

Fran Sharp is a freelance writer living in Alabaster even as she negotiates treacherous roads.