Monday, October 10, 2016

Tailgating: Proof that Humans Can Be the Stupidest Animal

My shift was over and I was driving back to the Flywheel garage on 101, heading toward the Cesar Chavez exit at 50 mph – the speed limit. The road was almost deserted but I could see another taxi following about 300 hundred yards behind me. I gradually slowed down as I moved into a circular off-ramp with a speed limit of 25 mph. I was about one-quarter of the way into the turn when the other taxi came up on me at twice my speed and started blasting his horn and wildly flashing his lights.

I still don't know what he wanted me to do. The exit was only one lane wide. Did he expect me to drive off the road so he could get by? Did he expect me to floor it and zoom to 80 mph to get him off my rear? What? More likely he didn't have expectations. Intelligence didn't appear to be part of his mental repertoire.

I guess I could have sped up a bit but homeless people live under that overpass and I didn't see any reason why I should risk (however remote the possibility) hitting one for the benefit of the cretin behind me.

In the California Driver's Handbook it says that if someone is following you too closely you should tap your brakes lightly to signal them to back off. On the other, you are advised not to do this if someone is tailgating you – probably because, if the blockhead was smart enough to know that he should slow down when you tapped the brakes, he wouldn't be on your ass in the first place.

I generally agree with this philosophy. However, I was peeved. A moment before I'd been totally relaxed. I'd had a decent shift and several good conversations with friendly people culminating in a wonderful ride with woman who was a fellow Mozart in the Jungle fanatic. I couldn't have been in a better mood.

And there I was being assaulted by a lobotomized, semi-psycho who had to have seen that I was driving much slower than he from a long, long way off. The twit had plenty of time to gradually slow down himself – as anyone with a quarter of a brain would have done. Furthermore, the freeway exit offered the choice of going Bayshore which would have taken him to the garage in approximately the same amount of time as Cesar Chavez.

In short, I wasn't blocking the crackpot's way. The imbecile created the situation for the sole purpose of harassing someone.

I jabbed the brakes with my left foot ready to hit the gas with my right in case the nitwit didn't brake himself. But he did – thus making the first smart choice of our relationship. But he immediately reversed this brief display of intellect by getting even closer to my bumper as I let the car slow down by itself for the remainder of the curve.

We eventually merged onto Cesar Chavez. I took the left lane and let him fly by.

When I got back to the garage, he was telling the gasman that I'd been driving 10 mph, which was true by the time I got to the bottom of the ramp. But that shouldn't have been a problem for him even if I had been driving that slowly on the freeway. There was nobody else on the road. He could've avoided me if I'd been backing up.

True to type he resembled Marty Feldman (see photo) both in face and physique. He looked and acted like a classic wimp who could only feel a sense of power with a car or a weapon. Using the car as a weapon thus acted as a neat solution to his sense of powerlessness.

But I'm psychobabbling.

On to the topic.


I'd like to say that this was a unique experience that is hardly the case. I never  go for a drive without somebody tailgating (defined as two seconds or less behind) me, although not always as aggressively as the dipstick in question. This is partly because I drive the speed limit but yesterday I was in a hurry and going 75 on 280 only to look in my mirror and see another zombie-eyed retard threatening to push me out of his way.

He was engaging in one of the more incomprehensible tailgating moves because the lanes to both my left and right were empty. If he was in a hurry all he had to do was make a lane change. I have sometimes driven like this for 10 or 20 miles just to see if the moron trailing me would take that option. In this case, I made the lane change and watched the bozo speed by until he found another bumper to suck.

Two more tailgating moves that defy rational explanation are: (1) speeding up to tailgate around a blind corner and (2) speeding up to tailgate through a yellow light turning red.

Do I have to explain why these are bad ideas? Probably, but the people I'd have to explain them to would be unlikely to grasp my point.

I used to teach driving and one my students started speeding up mid-block to make a right turn as a light was turning red – onto Mission no less. When I slowed him down he started laughing hysterically at my ridiculous caution. I told him that I'd already cashed his check so he could be as lame-brained as he wanted – when I wasn't in the car. But I did make him promise to call me and tell me his route any time he went driving – if the state ever showed the bad judgment to give him a license.

Why You Shouldn't Tailgate

My favorite tailgater was another cab driver who came flying up behind me, jamming my bumper as I was going into SFO at about 10 miles over the speed limit.

After we parked, I walked over to him and said that I'd appreciate it if he didn't do that again. He got out of his car and started screaming F-bombs at me, finally telling me to call the cops if I didn't like it.

Instead, I did something I rarely do (usually only to tailgaters). I threatened him but was so upset that I mixed my metaphors. The saying is supposed to be either ,"if you don't ... I'll drop you like a rock" or "I'll lay you like a rug."

What I said was, "I'll lay you like a rock."

Probably not as he effective but it did the trick because I spotted the knuckle-dragger glaring daggers at my back from time to time. That ended about 3 weeks later when I came to work and saw his taxi smashed in from both front and rear, looking like a three foot long accordion. My guess is that he tried to jam his taxi between two trucks and the first one must've hit the breaks then the second rear-ended him.

I never saw the doofus again but I hope he's well ... and in another line of work.

Anyone with common sense should know better than to engage in this behavior but as a philosopher once said, "there are few qualities more rare than common sense." Therefore, here is a video showing a tailgate accident and one or two articles on the effects of tailgating.

I want to add three ideas:

1. It is easier to pass a car if you are not tailgating because you will have more room to maneuver.

2. Tailgaters act like they're tough guys bullying everyone that gets in their way but they are the ones most likely to get hurt or killed because they are constantly putting themselves in accident situations.

3. Freeway accidents would almost disappear if people stopped tailgating. It's the only reason I like the idea of the self-driving car.

Have a safe day and remember, if you give yourself enough space, the odds will always be in your favor.

Note: I recently noticed that I've published 419 posts for this blog. This is unbelievable to me. I wrote the first one in March 2009. There was a time when this blog seemed relevant but I think that time is long past.

Whatever ideas I might express tend to be overwhelmed by the corruption and conceit of the people in positions of power and the faux-journalists writing about it. Not that I'm bitter. The corrupt intersection of business, politics and press is itself an interesting subject. But one that needs to be dealt with in a different form than a blog post. I may or may not be the writer to do it.

In the meantime, I have a few more posts to write before retiring my online rag. You've been warned.