Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Alligator Shoos

A few weeks ago I had a Lexus tailgating me. I'm not a fan of the tailgater (tail-gator), in fact I get quite agitated by them. I have a number of defences against the tailgater, all of them passively aggressive, though sometimes not all that passive. Here they are in no particular order:

- obey the speed limit as a form of protest - if I'm going over the speed limit and I'm being tailgated, I'll drop down to the posted speed, often using cruise control for the sake of precision. If I'm going to be rear-ended by some clown, I wouldn't want to be going above the legal limit as that could be dangerous. I've always felt that if I'm going slightly above the speed limit, you've got no legal right to put your snout up my tail-pipe.

- use a scare tactic - sometimes I'll flash the brakes to scare off a tailgater but this is only effective fifty percent of the time.

- use a devious scare tactic - when brake flashing doesn't work, I'll slip the car into second gear causing it to brake without any flash of red. This is highly effective as it usually catches the tailgater off-guard. If your car is a standard, downshifting from fourth gear to first is also highly effective. Unfortunately you may blow up your transmission by employing this patented Varty manoeuvre, but if this unanticipated move doesn't deter the gator, then the ensuing oil slick should send them careening into the ditch.

- give the gator the bird - flipping the bird is so ubiquitous that it's almost like waving at someone, yet it can often lead to an escalation of the tailgating, followed by a sound thrashing. I wouldn't give someone the finger unless you're into Ultimate Fighting (as a participant, and not as a tubby tube watcher). This advice is a classic case of 'do as I say, not as I do'. I once gave a big mean guy the finger in the Boston suburbs...I sweet-talked my way out of it, but just barely. During my years in Toronto, I would often give people the mitten (in wintertime). It was personally satisfying, as they couldn't see the single digit behind the wool, but I waved smugly knowing it was there.

- blind 'em by the light - you might think that I'm about to suggest hitting them with one of those million candle-power spotlight beams. I'm not. That would be dangerous as it's hard to keep your car in your lane while focusing the beam on someone else. The whole purpose of this exercise is to maximize your own safety by getting rid of the tailgater at all costs. Here's how I once got rid of a tailgater...I was coming off the Confederation Bridge in a line of traffic and the gator was really riding my bumper. All my 'traditional' efforts to shake him were getting nowhere so I pulled out my camera, put the flash on and took a picture of him. As it was twilight, the flash was shockingly vivid. The gator dropped back about three hundred feet and was not a problem again. Two weeks later, when I got my film developed, I had a blurry keepsake image of my trip to PEI (and my out of focus roof racks).

- give them the stink-eye - you can do this in your rear view mirror, though they'll probably never see it. Nevertheless, it feels good. Try to save a little bit for when they finally pass you. You can shoot them a stinky glare as they zip ahead to the next innocent bumper.

- pull over and let them pass - as if. This is too passive for me, as I don't feel that I should have to leave the road/highway to rid myself of a bumper rat. Note: I will pull over if I'm doing less than the speed limit, just because I'm a thoughtful guy.

My 'friends' in the Lexus appeared to be a bunch of teenagers driving an old man's car. I'm slightly more forgiving of teenage tailgaters as they're probably unprepared to deal with me, so I cut them some slack. I just hope that they'll grow out of their bad habits before the ding someone. The Lexus teens were all smiling and laughing and having a good time. They seemed to be paying a lot of attention to my car and pointing.

After a while it dawned on me that they were trying to read the bumper sticker that I had placed on my rear window.

I've created a monster. I am part of the problem.

My bumper sticker reads 'say no to didymo' . It's a wonderfully tantalizing catch phrase. Didymo, a devastating river weed that destroys river ecosystems, is also known as rock snot. I'm not sure why the New Zealand government, who provided me with the sticker, didn't create a bumper sticker that read 'stop rock snot' . In any event, it caught the attention of the teens behind me. They might trash daddy's Lexus and my Focus, but they're learning about invasive species while being one themselves.

I, myself, have been guilty of driving too snugly to a vehicle just to read the bumper sticker. I guess that's why someone markets a bumper sticker that reads 'if you can read this, you are within firing range'. There are lots of classic bumper stickers out there...what's your favourite?

Personally, I like the sticker that shows a fish with legs and has the words 'Darwin' written inside. Someone has a sense of humour. Another funny bumper sticker is Vote Bush/Cheney. Though, in hindsight, it's only funny that someone would admit in public to supporting such buffoons. I'll bet a lot of people spent a lot of time scraping those stickers off their bumpers before they tried to sell their cars. Imagine if you went to buy a used car and it had a bumper sticker that said 'Vote Mulroney'. You're not likely to see stickers like that on a Canadian car. On an Airbus...maybe.

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