Annoying drivers too shall pass

OK, new leaf turning over now. Fate and circumstance have forced me to do something I’ve been preaching for years, and it’s changed my attitude about a big part of my life.

Like most Americans, I consider myself an incomparable driver—competent, prudent, almost prescient. If everybody drove as I do, the last highway fatality would have occurred about 1934.

The problem, of course, is that everybody doesn’t.

I know you think you do and believe the problem lies with others. Sorry: The problem is you. And your ilk, too. Your ilk is even worse.

What brings this to mind is that I’ve been driving around lately with monocular vision. The reason doesn’t matter—nothing likely to be serious—but the result has been interesting in unexpected ways.

Hardly any adult will admit this, but I enjoy driving. I take it seriously, even the daily shuttle to work. My father was a stickler for safety, and I’ve been through performance driving schools that stress concepts the states don’t teach or test for: emergency response, car control, smoothness and speed, of course, but also a little thing that used to be called responsibility. What happens when you’re driving is your fault.

I’ll be off the soapbox in a minute, but one more point: My position is that there’s no such thing as an “unavoidable accident.” Every crash is the result of a mistake by somebody.

This brings us back to my one-eyed status. I can drive safely, but things I’m used to doing automatically require thought. I can’t glance in the mirror and whip off a lane change; I have to peer into the blind spot. My impaired depth perception makes parallel parking even more of an auditory adventure than it used to be. I slip through tight places on faith and memory of where the right fender was last time I saw it.

All this has made me pay increased attention to other drivers, too, and I’ve become aware of two things: how truly lousy many of them are, and how futile it is to care.

Here are a couple of statements that will irritate some people, but that I’ll stand by:

· At least 50 percent of big four-wheel-drive pickups are driven aggressively, by which I don’t mean “well” or even “fast.” I mean, “like the operators didn’t have two brain cells to rub together.”

· BMW drivers, as a group, have senses of entitlement rarely seen outside royal families. They’re like, “What are you doing on the road? Don’t you see my Beemer?”

Early in my one-eyed experience, I resented this. I’d linger in the path of a tailgating pickup, if “tailgating pickup” isn’t redundant, or leave not quite enough room at a red light for a BMW driver to make his right turn. Nothing obvious, but once your hair turns gray, you can get away with a lot by pretending to be oblivious, and I took advantage of it.

Then one day I just quit. It wasn’t worth the trouble. It struck me that if a guy is a jackass when he pulls up behind me, and I force him to spend 30 seconds there, he’ll still be a jackass after I move over. Let the police or the sheriff or the occasional armed road rager deal with him. (The miracle there, I’ve come to realize, isn’t that it sometimes happens, but that it doesn’t happen every day. Lord knows there’s ample provocation.) It isn’t my job to straighten out everything that’s wrong with my fellow man.

But if I were king?