Dashboard Confidential
Stupidity should be painful

By Dave Sweetman, Land Line contributor

I’m not a mean person. All things considered, I have even mellowed a lot with age, so I try to be patient, understanding and, yes, even forgiving. That doesn’t mean I’m a softy or a pushover.

In my earlier days of being a New York City meat hauler, I learned very quickly to control the traffic around me and be in charge of my own “space,” and those habits serve me well to this day. I don’t get hyper or overreact in traffic situations that would make a normal person run and hide. Too many years on the Cross Bronx and the 405. Go with the flow and stay mellow.

That said, over the years I have witnessed truly rude, mean and nasty behavior by drivers of cars, trucks and buses. I realize no one is perfect and everyone can err in judgment. But I am talking about mean, pushy and dangerous drivers.

In the past few years, it seems to be almost the norm for bad behavior and I trust no one. We all see it every day, many times over and over. I also think that stupidity should be painful. The more stupid your crime, the more painful it should be, just because I said so.

A proper testament to that was an encounter of the best kind a few weeks ago. Coming out of downtown San Diego on I-5 North, I was in the far-right lane doing my “drive slow because it’s California” trick. Most cars whizzed by doing 75 or faster.

Approaching the I-805 merge, the freeway is about eight lanes wide and the far-right lane merges left, then that far right lane merges left again, then that far-right lane is an exit only. Pretty easy and I have done it a hundred times before. Left signal on, blinky blink, ease on over and watch my blind spots. No one around for miles, so I’m good.

Except for this one jerk in a black Mercedes. I see him in my mirror and he is traveling a good 80 mph, weaving and bobbing through the staggered lines of cars behind me three lanes away. I would guess he was a wannabe racecar driver, as he was cutting off cars way too close to get ahead.

I now had a car on my left, and Mr. Racer Boy tried to force his way between us as I was merging left. If he had a brain, he could have passed on the left but chose to be aggressive next to the big green truck. He ran out of space, didn’t make it, hit the brakes hard, swerved around the car to the left and cut him off. Nice.

As I anticipated, the driver’s window rolled down and Racer Boy gave me the bird for a good solid minute. I knew it was coming. I was duly punished for my crime of driving on his freeway in the right lane where I was supposed to be. But wait! Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and paybacks. Sweet, sweet paybacks. You know what they say about paybacks, and this one had puppies.

Mr. Racer Boy in his desperation to insult me with his single digit salute, held his arm out the window a bit too long. I’m not sure if the wind got under the clasp or it was divine intervention, but the jerk’s wristwatch flew off, blew over his car roof and directly under the wheels of the big green truck he had just flipped off. That would be me.

For a second I thought, “Man, that’s terrible, really too bad.” I quickly got over my compassion (it only lasted a second) and I truly hoped that it was a $20,000 Rolex that I had mashed into tinfoil.

When I last saw Racer Boy, he nailed the brakes, swung a hard right to the shoulder, bailed out and was running back to the scene of his squashed tinfoil wristwatch. I really hoped that he was not stupid enough to try and retrieve his little patch of tinfoil. Stupidity should be painful but not deadly. LL