Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And While We’re At It…

California is about to become the 6th state to ban a particular form of stupidity.

Texting While Driving.

That’s right, texting while driving. Texting. While driving.

Go ahead, say that out loud. Texting while driving. See?

Seriously, it’s bad enough that people talk on their cell phones while barreling down the freeway at 90MPH in their monster behemoth SUVs swerving in and out of traffic. But texting? Seriously folks, what the hell is so important that you’ve got to communicate by typing cryptic one-liners with your thumbs while staring into a tiny screen in the first place? Let alone while operating a motor vehicle. I mean you’re holding the phone, why the hell don’t you just call the other person?

A number of folks have pointed out that we shouldn’t have to have such a law. It’s fairly obvious to anybody with a reasonable amount of common sense that texting and operating heavy equipment at high speed isn’t a good idea. Just like drinking and driving, or taking too many cold tablets and driving, or wearing a shopping bag over your head and driving. Basic common sense, that’s what these people are talking about.

But see, that’s the problem right there, common sense.

Of sure, there are a lot of people with good common sense – but there are a hell of a lot more people without one damned shred of sense, common or otherwise, in any way shape or form. These people are idiots, pure and simple, and a lot these chowderheads have a driver’s license (a significant number don’t, but that doesn’t keep them from driving).

These booger eaters are the ones that think a ‘conversation’ consisting of:

U gng b @ the party 2night? LOL

srsly. U? LOL

Fck yeah, biotch. LOL



LOL x2!

is worth risking the lives of everybody in four lanes for.

And because there are one hell of a lot of these dolts on the road, well, we need laws like the one California just passed. The problem is not that the law attempts to curb (ba dump bump) stupidity, it’s that it doesn’t go far enough.

I’d like to see some additions:

First, lets quit screwing around and make this a federal law. Nation wide. Otherwise there will always be states that just won’t do it. The stupid states. Full of stupid people. The big square states, right in the middle of the country full of corn gasoline and creationists. Unless we make this a federal law, those states will become safe havens for blockheads. And the problem is, of course, that they’re sitting square on top of the only way to get anywhere worth going to, i.e. we have to drive through places like Kansas and Indiana in order to get to more worthwhile and interesting and non-geometrically shaped places. Unless this law is federally mandated, those places will be full of hillbillies with enormous muscular thumbs and no insurance.

Second, lets not stop at texting. I lived in Southern California. I commuted on the I5 and the I15 every damned day for four years. I lived in Maryland and commuted into Washington D.C. on the M6. I’ve driven this continent all the way around, from Maine to Alaska via Florida and Texas, four times. I’ve driven in every major city in North America – and I’m going to tell you all something, Texting is the least of the baboon-assed, bald faced, worm eating, six-toed, cross-eyed, buck-toothed, kicked in the head by a mule stupidity I’ve seen.

So, while we’re at it, let’s make it illegal to do a few more things while driving shall we?

Let’s start with watching TV. Who the hell came up with TV’s for cars? That bastard needs a swift kick. Oh sure, it sounded good, TV in the back seat to keep the kids quiet. Two major things the designers didn’t think of: 1) after an hour of listening to Spongebob’s squealing voice from the backseat the typical driver becomes suicidal and starts thinking about just driving his Minivan straight into a fucking bridge abutment. And 2) eventually, some jackass would mount the TV in the front seat so the driver can watch porn. TVs need to be removed from cars. Period. Give the kids a shot of cough syrup and let ‘em sleep all the way to Grandma’s house. Or better yet, let ‘em fight for entertainment the way we did, “Mom! He’s looking out my window!” Of course, that leads to beating your kids in the backseat while driving, and that’s whole other issue. Be safe folks, pull over first, then beat your kids.

Applying make-up while driving should be illegal. I swear to God, I don’t know how many times some late-for-court lawyer on the 808 damn near killed me while steering her BMW torpedo with one hand and curling her eyelashes with the other while staring into the rearview mirror. Also, curling your hair with a propane powered curling iron while driving. Also drying your hair with a cigarette lighter powered hairdryer. Also changing clothes. Also putting on nylons. For the love of God, Ladies, get dressed before you leave the house, really. None of us actually give a crap what you’re wearing anyway, we mostly care what you’re not wearing. Just saying.

Eating anything other than a sandwich one handed while driving should be illegal. Look, everybody needs to eat behind the wheel sometimes, but Goddamnit folks, you need to have at least one hand on the wheel. Here’s what I want to know, what idiot at McDonalds came up with serving pancakes and syrup on plate at the drive-through? Pancakes and syrup? On a flimsy Styrofoam plate? How the hell do you eat something like that, plate in one hand, spork in the other, while driving a car? How do you cut the pancake with the fork, holding the whole mess - and you just know they’re going to spill the syrup on themselves and then swerve all over the road as they frantically rustle through the bag (which is laying on the floor in front of the passenger seat) looking for a napkin while trying hold on to that stupid plate, the spork, and a cup of Ronald McDonald’s 5000 degree coffee in the other hand. Which is usually when the phone rings. This is why you shouldn’t put a clown in charge of your menu, they think that shit is funny. Some places, at the drive-in window, serve soup.

Reading the newspaper. Yes, that’s right, reading the newspaper. Like you’re at home, in your Barcalounger with your pants unbuttoned after a good meal. Unless you’ve got a big square hole cut in the middle of the sport section, you can’t see the road. I know, shocking. Look, I’ve twice piloted a 9000 ton Navy cruiser through San Diego harbor in the blind. Once coming in, once going out with paper taped over the windows to simulate total loss of visibility. I had an entire navigation team feeding me rudder orders, radar, and GPS, and inertial guidance systems, charts and compasses, and safety spotters on the bridge wings – and it still scared the shit out of me. The probability of driving safely while reading the newspaper, a map, a book, or a fucking Blackberry is a lot like a blind mouse finding it's way through a pinball machine during the world cup final pinball battle.

Computing. Faxing. Collating. Filing. Sorting papers. Stuffing envelops or stuffing your secretary. Your car is not an office, even if it is as big as one.

I once damned near got hit head on by an old guy and his wife in a Lincoln Continental on the Gulf Coast Highway at Navarre Beach on Florida’s Panhandle following Hurricane Ivan. The guy was driving – while leaning out of the window and filming the wreckage with a video camera. On a road filled with the debris of houses and that was barely cleared enough to walk on. Apparently, his wife in the passenger seat, couldn’t, you know, operate the camera or the car. And what the hell is it with these control freaks anyway? Five people in a car, who’s the one on the phone? Yeah, the driver. Always.

California’s law is a good one, and we need more of it.

Srsly. LOL.

What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen on the road?


  1. Hey, now. I live a square state in the middle of CONUS.

    And no, I do not perform my personal grooming tasks when I'm driving, although I have been known to drink coffee.

    But I did once witness someone playing Civilization on a laptop while driving.

  2. Eating a bowl of something - yep, with a spoon in one hand and the bowl of something in the other.

    This followed closely by: 1) reading a magazine (Time), 2) brushing teeth (including the tube squeeze), 3) reloading what appeared to be an Uzi magazine (If you're going to a drive-by, shouldn't you load up before you leave home?)

    I was going to mention laptop work but Janiece's gamer trumps it.

    I'm going back to the shop.

  3. To show you just how out of touch the California legislators are, last year they passed a ban on talking on a cell phone while driving unless it is hands-free. They did not even think about texting until after the hands-free law went into effect.

    Obviously, they don't pay attention to what their kids are doing.

  4. Until the early 80's, in Florida (or at least Duval County), you could go to the drive-thru window at the liquor store and get one of those airline nips of booze and a plastic cup of whatever mixer you wanted.

  5. Oh hell, Nathan, FTW. I'd forgotten completely about that.

    Richie's Package Store, just off-base outside of Corry Station, Pensacola Florida had a drive up window at the end of the bar, where you could order anything you wanted. The first year I was there - everybody in the car could drink, the driver just couldn't be impaired. Then the law changed: you could still have open containers in car, but the driver couldn't drink (yeah, right).

    Only in the South. Only in the South.

  6. Nah, drive-throughs are nearly a religion here in NE Ohio. While driving to Mom's on Xmas, the only places open were the drive throughs (well, and the "Oriental Massage" place down in Warren, no windows. don't like to think about that too much).

    Yeah, I've seen people reading on the way to work. Novels. Makes me wish I got the Q Branch options package on the Honda.

    But the things that get me are those who go for "Happy Endings" while driving. Seriously. If that's going to happen I so very much do not want to be distracted by Right of Way computations. It's something I want to give my full attention to. I just don't understand the draw of it (while driving that is). No place, absolutely no place, is necessary to get to on time that badly.

  7. My favorite was the guy who COULD read -- that the sign said SPEED LIMIT 70. Which he was doing. During an ice storm. In the left lane.

    I was in the right lane, 2nd gear, 4WD, about 28mph. Moron? Drove past five sets of flashing police lights on both side of the highway dealing with slide offs and wrecks. Each of the cops shook their heads as Moron passed. Then on the next grade he spun around twice plus one-quarter turn while sliding off into the infield... where he flipped and rolled over several times.

    I continued on up the grade at 28mph.

    I regularly lecture my Physics students on stupidity I see on the roads, plus the evils of drinking and driving... they are shocked that I actually call such people "idiots" and "morons", and tell the class that if THEY do this, they are IDIOTS, too.

    No one, I think, has ever told them that they could be an Idiot before.

    Dr. Phil

  8. I went for a drive with my boss one day, he was using his cell with his right hand and reaching over to shift gears with the left, while changing lanes in a large swooping S-turn. I just about shit my pants. When I asked him why he just didn't change hands he said he can't use his phone with his left hand, it bothers him. Did I mention this was my boss?

    You can't fix stupid.

  9. My favorite continues to be the Mensa candidate who was putting on mascara in her rearview mirror while driving. You really wanna be holding a bristle brush 1/8" from your eye while driving at highway speeds over possibly uneven roadway? Can we say corneal abrasion?

    And re: Steve's complaint. College. Stupid. Survived. No further comment.

  10. ok, I live in the South, and have lived somewhere in the South since I was 18. I have seen it all, as in all of the above and then some (men shaving).

    Try I-285, top end of Atlanta, torrential downpour, no visibility, 70+mph, driver answers cell message and texts reply. Wonders why I freak out and tell him to stop the car I want to get out. Never rode with him again.

    However, in the interest of full disclosure and since there is a witnesses to whom I am related, I will confess to being the risk-taking driver at least once.

    My cousin Kelly was employed for many years by Ringling Brothers, yes, you know, the fine circus folks. She is, and always has been, a professional clown (with a circus in Japan for the last few years). The circus train is usually parked in an inconvenient rail yard if space is not available near the arena. This year it was a particularly neighborhood and very remote.

    So Cuz spends the night at my house, and as it was her day off, we were going to the train to pick up her clown partner and spend the day hanging out. We get there and a smallish group is waiting for us. Which is kind a problem as I am driving an Escort EXP, or essentially a two passenger car with killer cargo space in the hatch. You can squeeze in a person or two on the ledge and it looks like they’re in the back seat, but it’s not recommended.

    Would it be possible for the assembled crew to get a ride to the nearest bus stop several miles away, or to the MARTA station a little further into town, they inquire. Um, well, the car only seats 2 legally, 4 if you fake it. We’ll squeeze in, they say. Um, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Please, cab fares are killing us, we’ll give you gas money (not a concern in those days).

    A couple more from the clown crew run up to join us. The assorted clowns in the group assure me they can get everyone in - safely? I relent and tell them I’ll do it, AS LONG AS they pay the ticket if we get stopped. They think on it, do the math, and inform me it would still be cheaper than cab fare. We agree on a drop off place.

    They pile in, two in the passenger seat, several on the ledge, the rest of the clowns (literally) in the cargo area. I head off, carefully.

    Very distracted. You try driving with a car load of clowns and their friends!

    Pull into a gas station.

    The car doors open and I pop the hatch.
    People start pouring out of this compact car.
    And pouring out. And unfolding out.

    The other customers stop and stare at what must have been quite a spectacle.

    Cuz’s clown partner Rocco turns to the assembled audience and announces –
    We’re professionals, don’t try this at home. Bows and gets back into the car.

    I believe the final count in Wendy’s clown car adventure was either 9 or 10.

  11. I saw a woman changing her shirt while driving on the Beltway. And it wasn't gridlock, either. I zoomed past her and kept my eye out in case she came close again...

    Wendy -- that sounds like it must've been some spectacle... :-)

  12. Well, Wendy, they were professionals.

  13. Trust me, folks, it was pretty funny. I still giggle every time I go past that particular BP station.

    Yes, they were professionals, the clowns had been to Clown College and all that. Don't know about the show girls, although they were pretty flexible, now that I think about it.

    And wouldn't you know it, no one had a camera with them either!

  14. Full disclosure, I am Wendy's brother.

    Fact is, most people have no idea how big a human being is. Take a 50.0 kg college coed, your typical elementary education major. Now for the sake of argument, let's say people are mostly water. If you were all pure water, at a mass-to-volume ratio (I do not use the "D" word in class) of 1000 kg/m^3, a 50.0 kg person would occupy 0.0500 cubic meters, or you could get 20 such students into 1.00 cubic meter.

    We had a plastic frame which made a cube 1.00 m x 1.00 m x 1.00 m and proceeded to see how many people could sit, lie, fold into this space. The best we ever did is 11, which is actually pretty good considering the students are not, in fact, pure water.

    One cubic meter is a significant volume considering the back of a Ford EXP, so this classroom exercise is consistent with getting 11 clowns into my sister's car.

    By the way, we're not using spherical coeds here, because we want to pack them into the one cubic meter as tightly as possible without interstitial gaps.

    This will be on the quiz next Tuesday. Class dismissed.

    Dr. Phil

  15. Hey, Brother o' mine-
    go practice physics somewhere else today or you'll ruin a perfectly good (and highly amusing) clown car story.

    [sticks out tongue and throws size 18 clown shoe at Dr. Phil]


  16. Wendy, see Phil got me thinking - which is hard to do at the moment as I'm suffering a splitting headache.

    Phil, I think you're looking at only one set of packing options here. What if we removed the water from each clown first? Before packing them into the car? How many could we get in the cargo compartment then?

    See I'm thinking, dehydrate to <.01% moisture content, then compress them using a large hydraulic press into dense cubes no larger than 1cm per side. 1CuMr of space would then allow for precisely 1,000,000 clowns. Of course, at that density an Escort EXP's suspension would have to be reinforced, but that's a problem for the engineers.

  17. Jim-
    You have a migraine and you're dueling physics with Dr Phil...
    well, some people never learn.

    But I am sorry you have a headache. Hope it goes away soon.

    And the thought of dehydrated, desicated clowns spooking around gives me a headache. Just a little creepy too.


  18. Jim, I remember that Star Trek episode. It's the one where Scotty gets the alien in human form drunk.

    "What is it?"

    "Uh, it's... green."

    "Let's have it."

    The problem is never in the dehydration -- it's in the reconstitution. Plus, your way isn't nearly as funny as the clown method. Of course I once horrified a class by suggesting that we could pack more students into a car if we just ground them up first...

    Dr. Phil

  19. Hmmm, yes, that episode of ST:TOS crossed my mind too. The problem being, of course, not the efficient clown packing which is a relatively straight forward bit of engineering, but rather getting the Escort to break through the energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy...A difficult process with only a 4-cylinder engine - sort of like merging onto the M131 S-curve in downtown Grand Rapids during rush hour.

    And even with those vitamin pills and efficient storage, the voyage is still something like 300 years if I recall correctly - probably longer in an Escort - we're going to need to stop at a 7/11 and pick up some supplies.

    Also, I call shotgun.

  20. It's US-131, not M-131. (grin) And actually, the rebuilt S-curve IS a lot nicer than the old one. More lanes. And a built-in de-icing system which actually sometimes works.

    Wonder how many clowns fit in a 1999 Bravada? I remember that my Suburban had 144 cu. feet of cargo space...

    Dr. Phil


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