Sunday, September 23, 2007

Of Cars and Men


I know this isn't a particularly original question. Indeed, it's a rather tired, cliched one that I've often seen trotted out in weak stand-up comedy routines and small-talk circles. But I'm going to ask it anyway:

What is it about cars that turns men into drooling, acerebral, aggressive baboons?

I ask because two separate incidents over the past week each brought the query to mind. Two times that led me to ponder whether castration might actually be a useful tool for social control.

I usually drive into work fairly early each morning, when the roads are fairly empty and the sun, at least this time of the year, is just starting to poke over the horizon. Our local speed limit is 50 KPH, but I usually tool along the long, straight stretch of my journey at the constabularially-accepted 60 KPH. I was doing just that one morning when a big, fuck-off pickup truck roared up behind me, and sat on my tailgate. I maintained my speed, and I could feel the hostility drilling through the back windscreen into my skull.

I slowed to a stop at a red light, next to a brightly-clad and lit bicyclist waiting to my right. The fuck-off truck pulled over slightly to the right and stopped, right behind the cycle. Just before the light turned green, the cyclist started off (naughty, naughty) and I did the same when the light actualy turned. Fuck-Off Truck then gunned his engine, swung right into the intersection, then left in an attempt to cut in front of me. I could see there was about two car lengths between me/Fuck-Off and the cyclist, and less than a length between the cyclist and a rw of parked cars dead ahead of him. I had a flash vision of a car-crash club sandwich consisting of me, Fuck-Off, a parked car, and cyclist-as-ketchup. So I hit the breaks and let Fuck-Off craze in front of and ahead of me, and past the oblivious cyclist. As he did, I glanced and noted that he was definitely a he. Thoughts of sheep-shears and de-orchidation crossed my mind and followed him as he roared away dig at least 80 KPH, though they were somewhat tempered by smugness when, still sticking at 60 KPH, I caught up with him at the next traffc light.

The other incident occurred last weekend, when I was taking Little Man and Dearest Daughter to some regular activity or other. I was pootling aong my normal route, and approached from the south a four-lane avenue in preparation of crossing it. As I rolled to a stop I spied a lady in a flourescent jacket standing in the gap of the grassy central reservation that divided the eastbound and westbound lanes. She was holdng a stop sign and pointed to my right. I then looked past her and caught sight of flocks of cyclists whizzing past. Some sort of sportng event. Mildly miffed, I huffed and turned right, hoping to turn left at he next intersection and continue on my way. Only there were similar flourescent people at all the intersections for the next several blocks.

Miffed grew to frustrated, frustrated grew to fuming, and I launched a mini-rant about the bloody cheek of it all and the stupidity of shutting down a large stretch of a major road without warning and how we were going to be late. The bairns were uncharacteristically silent. So I dipsied, and I doodled, and found an alternate route. I noted we were only about five minutes behind schedule, then realized that even if we were late it wouldn't have been a huge deal. Fuming then turned to sheepish. So I told Little Man and Darling Daughter that Daddy had been really silly, shouldn't have made such a fuss about nothing, and had forgotten that grumping soles nothing. They agreed with me. But I silently wondered why sitting behind the wheel had caused such a rush of testosterone to the brain...

So, I repeat: What is it about cars that turns men --myself occasionally included-- into drooling, acerebral, aggressive baboons??

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Oh, my lovely Cerys, you give me road rage summat fierce...

Fu Manchu - King of the Road (buy here)
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Bleepy, whiny, antiseptic, early Mute magnificence. All hail the Korg 700s.

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Ooooh, any excuse to post summat from these Leicester-born, arty post-punks who are, alas, no longer with us. NOTE: Be very careful when Googling Prolapse as you may run into some very unpleasant stuff...

Drive Like Jehu - Atom Jack (buy here)
This band looked to the Bible for their name, specifically 2 Kings 9.20: "and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously." But this ain't no Christian rock, boys & girls. In 1995 frontman Speedo ditched DLJ in favour of his other project, the mighty Rocket From The Crypt.

7 comments:

Crash Calloway said...

Douglas Adams wrote somewhere about 'that strange moral high ground which only cyclists occupy' which I think is rather nice. I don't drive at all, never have, and I'd recommend it to anyone. Although of course if I did I would certainly have my moments :)

Also I secretly believe that Cerys Matthews singing 'And if all you have to do today is hestiate / Come round, you can leave it late with me' is possibly the sexiest line in popular music.

mjrc said...

i feel your pain, mr. fil. my biggest pet peeve on the road is being tailgated, especially when i'm doing well over the legal limit myself.

my theory is that there are certain people who drive with no regard to anyone else. they seem to believe they're the only car on the road that matters.

however, i, too, get easily frustrated when i find i'm running late, and i try to breathe deep and not get upset, as most of the time it ends up i have to wait anyway once i arrive at my destination. but it does make me crazy.

last thought: it's not just men who get that aggressive feeling behind the wheel. one time in the car, my youngest tried to explain to her friend that "my mommy gets overwhelmed when people in front of her are going too slow," which i thought was a very nice way of putting it! : )

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

In a poem Bukowski pointed out that the human race you see driving around like demented baboons is what the human race is really like. Civilization is the thinnest gloss of all.

Mentok said...

You know what I'm going to say: Monkey Principle! Next time you're driving, imagine a bunch of chimps in the other vehicles. Then look in the rear-view and visualize a pair of chimp eyes looking back at you. That'll spook you off driving for awhile.

(My own motorist angst is currently being tempered by the fact that I'm borrowing my mom's SUV for a couple weeks. It's a powerful vehicle but I can't feel too cocky, knowing there's a "World's Greatest Grandma" plate on the front of the thing.)

FiL said...

Dearest Crash: I tend to agree with Adams' comment, though with the codicil that I think on occasion it can lead to equally aggressive and stupid behaviour on the part of a minority of cyclists. Why, just the other day while I was stopped at a red light a cyclist (sans helmet, BTW) whizzed up on my right, glanced left and right, then --without stopping-- turned left in front of me. Being healthy and emission-free doesn't make you immune to traffic laws, or those of physics...

FiL said...

Dearest Marcy: By "well over the legal limit" I take it you don't mean tanked up on booze... ;-) But to your other point, I find far more often than not it's men who are aggressive. Women tend to be the ones I see yakking on their cellphones which is also hazardous, but not aggressive.

Dear Beer &c: Mm, not sure Bukowski & I see eye-to-eye on that. To wit...

Dearest Mentok: Yes, I suspected the monkeys would make an appearance. Actually, I think part of it is the social distance a car puts between people. Wrap someone (OK, a man) up in an automobile, and it creates a sense of isolation, individualism, and disconnection from the collective. Mix in testosterone, and voila...

Just a Girl said...

Vehicles: the impenetrable fortress of the road...

uh uh uh more power!

And of course it's the fact that no one else has anywhere important to be and they should all just bend to mighty.

If I were a man I'd be one of those crazed drivers myself. Good thing I'm just a girl ;)