Take Five: Driving is driving him mad

Driving is driving me mad!

It’s not that driving by itself is so full of tension — it’s watching out for the other driver in that white car who is going to drift into my lane, or jump the green light or make a left turn from the right-hand lane.

Having just left the dentist’s office in Glendale, I am admittedly on edge. It was the scraping and the grinding that got to me. When it was all over I leapt to my feet, waved goodbye and finally began to smile all the way down the elevator. I could relax.

I found my car (and this time only went down two extra aisles in the garage) and was pleased to be on my way. Now I was free from worries for a while. But getting on the freeway and driving up the 2, back to my own La Cañada, was no breeze.

Full attention is absolutely required. Every car wants to go faster than my car, be in my lane, or pretend to be in my lane. And the trucks are going either 80 or 50 mph. I know that everything I eat or drink or sleep on is in that truck, so I will get out of the way, or pass, with a look.

If I stay behind the slow-moving vehicle, I can daydream a little. So with a huge nod and thanks to James Thurber and Danny Kaye, I can transform myself into a Walter Mitty persona.

I can be a traffic reporter charged with providing play-by-play commentaries on the drivers’ habits and idiosyncrasies:

“Tank Commander Pepper reporting from a busy Los Angeles freeway. I’m driving today in my classic fitted-out Bummer 12-A-OK tank. I occupy a turret-type chair that swivels 360 degrees. I see all, hear all, and smell all. I need to declare that I receive hazardous pay from the DMV.”

In the next lane over is a female driver putting on makeup. I am particularly fascinated when she whips out the mascara and closes one eye to apply. If that isn’t enough, she is also talking on her cell phone. She may earn style points, but also a ticket. I earned a raised eyebrow.

Just behind that car is a guy driving and shaving with his electric razor. I see he is also reading today’s Los Angeles Times sports section. As I pull even with him (I’m anxious to read about the Dodgers, too), he says hello with one of his fingers. Perhaps he is related to the make-up girl. Their home may be too small for two mirrors but their cars look nice.

The diamond lane may be a good idea if you want to get past the dawdlers, but once in it, you cannot get off, least of all at your exit. You may have to continue on to San Francisco, but at least you are moving.

It’s possible to also avoid the teen-who-is-texting, but even if you were out of the car and walking down the street, you could not avoid the teen-who-is texting. It’s such a natural look that it is easy to forget that this kid is actually driving a car.

I’m bringing the tank back to our motor pool garage. Here’s hoping you keep your wits about you.

Tip: A traffic school instructor once told me a great way to avoid a ticket: Look in your rearview mirror and pretend you see a police officer — and drive like that all of the time.

GENE PEPPER is a published author and writer. Contact him by email at gpep@aol.com or phone (818) 790-1990.

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