Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Cretoron List

During the early 80’s, I drove four hours every day, two hours each way, in rush hour traffic to attend high school downtown. At that time, the boom-town oil rush of the 70’s left Houston’s freeways plagued with a stifling bumper-to-bumper 20 mph stop-n-go crawl. There were bumper stickers that read, “Will the last one out of Michigan, please turn out the lights?” it wasn’t just Michigan, though. There were probably just as many out-of-state license plates as there were Texas plates. At 16, I learned how to drive in this traffic.

I carpooled with three other classmates of mine in a ’72 Dodge Dart, that one of the girls christened “The Hippy Mobile”. The actual christening was another story that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that this fire red Hippy Mobile was well suited for four teenage girls in rush hour traffic. The scratches and dents just added to its personality.

I left my house every morning at 6am to pick up the others, and didn’t get home until 6pm, so all our after school free time was spent driving. We quickly found ways to entertain ourselves. Groucho Marx glasses and hand puppets would solicit some pretty humorous reactions in the morning. After school though, a six pack of beer and a bag of Doritos while waving at all the truck drivers was the entertainment of choice. My friends like to see how many of the truckers they could get to honk their horns.

The morning rush hour mentality was different from the afternoon’s. In the morning, people were sleepy and distracted. They would be reading the newspaper or putting on make-up in the rear view mirror while driving. We were rear-ended many times, but in stop-n-go traffic, it was more of an annoyance than a fender bender. Nine times out of ten, it wasn’t worth stopping for. One day, we came up with the idea of having one person sit in the driver’s seat reading the newspaper, while I sat beside her and drove with my left hand and foot (the Hippy Mobile didn’t have bucket seats; it had one long bench seat). We thought the double-takes of the other drivers were hysterical.

In the afternoons however, people were tired, cranky, and in a hurry to get home. The unintentional accidents of the morning became intentionally rude road rage in the afternoon, hence the creation of the Asshole List (please pardon my language here; we were just teenagers). Yes, we kept a score card above the sun visor to track all the incidents. Here’s how it worked: An asshole was worth 1 point, and was someone who would cut you off and then drive slower than the rest of traffic especially in the left lane. A total asshole was 2 points, and was someone who’d cut you off, and you would have to swerve or slam on your breaks to avoid hitting them. A complete fuck up was 3 points, and was someone who actually hit you, ran you off the road, or tried to run you off the road in a fit of rage. For example, those idiots who don’t care to merge safely, because they don’t want anyone to get in front of them. After about six months, we figured up the totals and found we averaged about 17 points per week. Unfortunately, my dad found the list one day, and took it away. He didn’t think the language was appropriate for young ladies, and tried to scold me for it, but couldn’t keep a straight face. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took it to work with him the next day to show the guys in his carpool.

Well, here it is thirty years later, and Houston’s freeways have finally caught up with its population. Even though there’s still construction on many of the freeways, there’s no more stifling stop-n-go traffic except after an accident. One would think that the driving attitudes would improve with the progress, but apparently not. I still see road rage on a daily basis.

The other day, I was driving in the left lane, getting ready to pass a silver SUV and the 18 wheeler in front of him, when suddenly the “2 pointer” SUV pulled over in front of me, causing me and the cars behind me to slam on their brakes. Generally in most states, the left lane is for passing. Slower traffic is supposed to keep right, but Mr. 2 Pointer must have felt he was the exception to this common courtesy, because he continued to go the same speed as the 18 wheeler that was still in the lane to his right. The cars behind me cut over two or three lanes to the right to get around them. I decided to wait and see if he would eventually speed up. He did, and I followed him. When I was even with the cab of the 18 wheeler, Mr. 2 Pointer cut back over to the right in front of the 18 wheeler, revealing to me the road construction that was ending my lane. I didn’t have time to stop, so I sped up to get in front of the 18 wheeler. Apparently angry about the SUV, the 18 wheeler sped up also, and intentionally hit me, because he didn’t want me to get in front of him as well, making him Mr. 3 Pointer.

The rage of these two men spreads like the swine flu across our freeway systems, infecting everyone who comes near. It’s a highly contagious, ugly, angry, porcine disease, and now I have it too. I’m afraid to drive, afraid of acting just like them. So, I’ve decided to start another list, to try to make fun of the situation. I’m trying to make light of things like we did in high school. It’s the only way I know how to work through this kind of anger. This time I’m calling it the Cretoron List. I made the name up from the words ‘moronic cretin’. The words seem more descriptive than the previous list’s words. Here’s how it works: A Cretoron is 1 point, a Gross Cretoron is 2 points, and an Utter Noxiousile (from the words ‘obnoxious imbecile’) is 3 points. The standards for scoring are the same. If anyone would like to play along, feel free to leave your scores here in the comment section on Fridays.

I've also been spending a lot of time in my garden, trying to work through the anger.

floral choir's hymn
harolding healing colors
nature's therapy


Sue said...

You have a wonderful sense of humour which I love
It takes 2 hours to get from here to Toronto - can't imagine doing that every day - if people comute to TO - they do the train

Good for you - you wrote !

bluerose said...

Thanks Sue! We have a bus system here, but it's not very convenient for the suburbs. You still have to drive in to a park-n-ride to catch the bus.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I hate idiots on the road.

In fact, I pretty much hate driving because of them.

Sorry you had to put up with this.

I love to drive on nearly deserted roads-note the NEARLY part.


bluerose said...

Oh yes, Mary, I agree with you. There's something really peaceful about driving out on a winding country road. I hate driving in the city. I hate crowds.

Anonymous said...

u r a good read. thank u for taking along w u through this bit of your story. the picture u described of driving w a newspaper was too much fun.
gardening for anger... nice. keep on!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I love the way this piece opens! :-D

And did I mention I love the photo?

It's cute and funny, you;'re a good writer. Are you publishing anything?

bluerose said...

LOL, yeah, I bet you're relating to the bumper stickers about Michigan ;]. After the first time we saw that bumper sticker, we started counting Michigan license plates, but soon got bored with it. Now, we don't see too many.

Thanks so much for the compliments. It means a lot coming from you. No, I'm not publishing anything. I've just really been enjoying writing lately, and want to see if I can get better at it.

bluerose said...

Thanks Friend to Yourself! Those are fond memories for me, and the gardening has helped immensely. I'm feeling much better now.