Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Superior judgment reigns on Winnipeg roadways

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I have a confession to make -- I am an excellent driver.

Based on the superior judgment you have displayed by deciding to read today's informative and educational column, it is obvious you are an excellent driver, too.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the rest of the (bad word) motorists in this city.

I am strongly opposed to making sweeping generalizations, but I think we can agree that when the "other" drivers in this city get behind the wheel, they are transformed from polite Prairie people into homicidal morons.

From the day I moved here -- 40 years ago -- I noticed local motorists drove their cars as if they were operating heavy farm equipment. If they wanted to turn one way or the other, they'd first swing their vehicle out into the other lane, ensuring sufficient elbow room for their Dodge Dart/combine to complete such a highly technical manoeuvre.

I was thinking about this the other day as I drove my relatively new car -- which I like because it is shiny, whereas my son borrows it because it has a 3.5-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 engine capable of producing 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque at 64,000 RPM -- to get my hair cut, because I was starting to resemble a refugee from Duck Dynasty.

As I motored along, observing the speed limit and listening to classic rock on my car's 10-speaker sound system -- not that I am bragging -- a driver in an old white car the size of an aircraft carrier, without signalling, suddenly veered in front of me, leaving a space between my front bumper and his rear bumper that was barely the width of a stick of gum.

Naturally, being an excellent driver and a middle-aged newspaper columnist trained to remain calm in stressful situations, I simply touched the brakes, shook my head and continued driving in a safe, sane manner.

Ha! That's what would have happened in an alternate universe. In this universe, what I did was lean on my (bad word) horn with enough pressure to turn coal into diamonds, then, through my front window, displayed the back of my closed fist with only the middle finger extended upwards to convey the concept that I felt the motorist in front of me should do something that we do not normally suggest people do in family newspapers.

(Unrelated note: If you would like to read an informative "think piece" about famous people "flipping the bird" to people who got on their nerves, check out the Speiriscope column in Saturday's 49.8 section. You're welcome.)

Anyway, while I was getting my hair cut, I remembered another dramatic driving confrontation. Not long ago, I made what I felt was a safe right turn onto a busy highway, but the driver behind me apparently felt I had cut him off.

The driver behind me signalled his displeasure by leaning on his horn -- if you can imagine anyone being so rude -- and then -- you are not going to believe this next bit -- gave me the one-finger salute, which I observed while glancing in my rearview mirror.

"Just ignore it," is what my wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, advised me.

And so I did. But first, I casually returned the gesture of driving contempt with an over-the-shoulder, no-look flip off that would have made Johnny Manziel, the Cleveland Browns' bird-flipping rookie QB, green with envy.

This prompted the driver behind me to step on the gas, veer into the next lane, almost sideswipe my car, pull in front of me at about 900 kilometres per hour, stop in front of my car in rush hour, and begin shrieking the sort of words you'd hear in a slaughterhouse if someone dropped a cow on their foot.

"Just ignore it," my wife repeated as we listened to a steady stream of exceedingly rude words, blocking traffic for several minutes until the driver roared away, still shrieking.

"That is good advice, honey. I am sure that driver just had a tough day at the office," is what I recall saying to She Who Must Not Be Named, although it is possible I may be paraphrasing slightly.

The important traffic safety point I am making is that we all need to calm down a little and remember not to let our tempers get away from us when we get behind the wheel.

If you disagree with that statement, I'd be more than happy to hear your opinion. But first I think you should go outside and move your (bad word) tractor because I believe it's double-parked.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2014 A2

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