Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Driving Gripes

It is nearly the end of the year, and I realized two things:
  1. Things have been going very well for me. As a result, I haven't been complaining enough lately.
  2. It has been awhile since I last wrote a blog entry.
Trying to be practical, I have obviously combined the above two points and decided to write about something which affects anyone who drives where temperatures drop below "freeze yer ass off" or the landscape is littered with that (usually) white falling crap more commonly referred to as "snow".

Here in Chicago, we have already had 6 weather extremes this season... and winter has just started. Let me repeat that again... 6 WEATHER EXTREMES THIS SEASON, SO FAR. Just in case you are keeping track, We've had very cold ("freeze yer spirit thermometer's ass end off"), overly warm ("tropical"), flooding ("damn rain and melting, grab the rowboat"), extra dense fog ("I wish I could find the rowboat"), high winds ("this blows"), oh, and snow ("22.3 inches, so far, up the wazoo").

For the record, we had locusts last year, my neighbors across the street lost power and had 3 days of darkness during the summer, the Chicago river is still green, and the corruption investigation of Gov. Blagojevich seems like it will decimate the dysfunctional state political family. I think we have cornered the market on Biblical-like plagues for the time being, thank you very much.

So, yeah... the joys of winter. The joys of making snowmen, snow angels, snow ball fights, the crunch of the ice and snow under foot... Then comes the agonies of the season: cleaning off your car, shoveling yourself up and out of snow creek with arms which feel they are without a snow shovel paddle, the crunch of your bones after falling due to the ice and snow under foot, and lest we forget winter driving.

Winter driving can be rather pleasant, please don't get me wrong. However, there are times where is is the suck. There are times where being off the road (read: safely at home, relaxing with a cup of tea...) is significantly better than being a driver on the road. Here is my list of winter driving gripes:
  1. Slow down, dammit! This shouldn't come as a surprise, but trying to drive your usual 95 mph when the weather is crappy and there is snow and/or ice on the road is what most professional stuntmen would describe as "effing nuts". Surprise, surprise, that moron driver who had to go 70 when there was an inch of ice on the roadway ended up in the ditch after doing a fishtail spin out that would make a figure skater jealous. Guess what, in snow and ice conditions, your tires may not have grip or friction enough to safely keep you going on the roadway, let alone to maneuver well or stop. If you don't know what I am talking about, google "hydroplaning" Slow down and allow a lot more room to maneuver and stop.

  2. Get off my ass! I love it how drivers feel like they are obligated to tailgate me. I love it even more when they decide that they should slam on their brakes when they are inches away from rear ending me at the stop light. One would think that when the road conditions are crap these people would allow a small bit more room to stop, just in case they hit some ice... But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. For crying out loud, please stay off my car's ass end and try to allow at least a half car length of space between you and the driver in front of you. Also, allow more room for stopping in general. Thanks to all the crappy ass riding drivers, I've decided to supplement my car insurance my having Chuck Norris roundhouse kick any car which gets too close.

  3. Right turn on red isn't always right. Now, I am not a professional driving instructor, but let me explain something...
    "You may make a right turn at a red light or a left turn at a red light when turning from a one-way street onto another one-way street that has traffic moving to the left. In both instances, drivers must come to a complete stop and yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians before turning." (from Illinois Rules of the Road, Chapter 10)
    This means that doing a turn on red when oncoming traffic is approaching faster than Superman on Redbull is a bad idea. On the other hand, when traffic is all fubared due to weather, doing a right turn on red is not only stupid, but is makes traffic worse.

  4. Hang up and drive. This is an ongoing gripe. I will admit that I do, on occasion, talk on my mobile phone while I drive. However, I always use a hands-free set while driving, and I will not use my mobile phone during circumstances where I, as the driver, must devote more than 100% of my attention to the road (read: when driving conditions are bad). Unfortunately, it seems that too many people around here feel like they must chat at all times. Making matters worse, their conversation has higher precedence than driving while they drive. This normally is a sucky situation, however, throw in the usual winter crappage, and this can be downright deadly.

    Now, you drivers under the age of 19 who like to drive with their phone attached to their heads all the time, let me remind you of the rules of the road again...
    "Persons under age 19 are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving except in an emergency. Local municipalities may govern whether cell phone use is permitted, regardless of the driver’s age." (from Illinois Rules of the Road, Chapter 11)
  5. Lights, dammit! It seems that too many drivers are a bit dense when it comes to using their lights. Let me simplify it... Your car must have two headlights, and they are to be turned on from sunset to sunrise, as well as when the weather requires you to use your windshield wipers or when you are unable to see objects 1000 feet away. (See IL Rules of the Road, Chapter 12) Parking lights are not headlights, and using your parking lights instead of your headlights makes you look like a tool.

    It should also be mentioned that when the weather is crappy using your high beams can make visibility worse, not better. This is because snow and fog will reflect the light from your high beams back at you. Try using your fog lights (if you have them) instead.
While I am at it, I may as well discuss something else which has been bugging me. Here in Chicago, due to the extreme budget situation, snow plowing of side streets has been significantly cut back. I am not going to discuss the politics behind that. What is really pissing me off is the pissing and moaning I hear and read about it. The constant whining about "I pay my taxes, you clean it up" or "I was slightly delayed because of a little snow" has gotten to the point where I want to go slap some people around. Hell, I bet that a good portion of the people complaining about the lack of snow plowing also bitched constantly when the same snow plows neatly plowed the snow and pushed the snow so close to their cars.

I am only going to say this once... QUIT WHINING AND DEAL WITH IT. If you are able bodied, quit whining about the damn snow and demanding that others bail your ass out and instead grab a shovel and/or a snow blower and deal with it. Seriously, I am sick of this victim culture which lets people make excuses for everything and get by without actually fixing their problems. The snow sucks, this is a fact. The lack of plowing sucks too, this is also a fact. However, if everyone does what they can to improve the situation, we will all get through this and be better off.

Chicago is supposed to be the city that works. Looking back into history, when the proverbial kilometric pantload hit the fan, people rolled up their sleves and worked hard to fix the situation. Sitting around and bitching never improved the situation. If we want something, we must be willing to work for it. Likewise, if the city isn't able to move the snow, we should be able to move the snow.

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