Hey Tourists: Learn To $%*^ing Drive Already

When you live in a tourist trap, the summer traffic is something is pretty much guaranteed to make you throttle the bulk of humanity, even if you're the coolest of cucumbers.
Publish date:
August 8, 2013
cars, driving, car drama

What's your summer anthem?

Mine is “Move Bitch (Get Out of the Way)” because it's usually what I'm muttering under my breath any time I get in my car. When you live in a tourist trap, the summer traffic is something is pretty much guaranteed to make you throttle the bulk of humanity, even if you're the coolest of cucumbers.

Which I am not.

Any trip of more than a few miles will involve at least one of the following: pedestrians and/or cyclists suddenly appearing out of nowhere; almost getting T-boned by some douche running a light/stop sign; getting stuck behind someone who thinks it's awesome to go 35 in a 55; having to jam on the brakes because a carload of tourists suddenly decided to turn for no apparent reason; inhaling the fetid exhaust of a trailer/tour bus; ROAD WORK. (Seriously, who does road work in peak summer traffic? CalTrans, that is who.)

Travel further afield and inevitably you're doing to end up getting stuck behind some tourist who doesn't understand the rules of the road, as in both the laws and common courtesy, and thus refuses to pull over when there's a long line of cars waiting to pass. Those same tourists will look deeply offended when you finally end up passing them, careening back into your lane just in time to avoid oncoming traffic because the bloody-minded tourists felt the inexplicable need to speed up while you were trying to get out from behind their slow arses.

So here's the thing: I freely admit to all and sundry that I am a holy terror on the road. I've gotten two speeding tickets in the last year. I am That Asshole. I defy stereotypes when it comes to driving.

But like, also? Driving in tourist traps in summer sucks even for sedate drivers, because tourists either lose any and all driving skills they ever had promptly upon crossing the county line, or they're all high, or I honestly don't even know what.

Like, all I want is for everyone to just understand the basic fundamentals of driving. This should not be hard. We'd all get along so much better -- and so much safer -- if people just used their brains for 30 seconds instead of going into paroxysms of panic upon being confronted with the fact that yes, there is a road, and they are on it.

Here in California, people like to joke about how we're not fond of turn signals or much inclined to stop at stop signs (I actually do both religiously, thanks). I heartily encourage people to start doing both of these things immediately because few things are more frustrating than not knowing what the hell another driver is even doing and sometimes simply signaling goes a long way toward clearing that up.

If, for example, you stop dead in the middle of Main Street, I have no idea what this means, because I cannot read your mind. I actually need some sort of directive. Are you waiting for parking? Are you taking a picture (yes, people totally do this)? Are you looking at a map? Are you just being a confused and obnoxious tourist? Is there a skunk in the road? Like, what is going on?!

If you're planning on turning in front of me? Um, please signal. Because otherwise I am going to continue in blissful unawareness of the fact that I am about to slam into you because you can't be arsed to look where you're going, or signal to warn other drivers. Like, this is not hard, people. I don't want to hit you, you don't want to be hit, right?

I get it. You see shinies and pretty things. You want to stop and look at them. That sort of sustains the whole town. So PULL OVER and then look at them. Don't just abruptly stop in the middle of the road. Don't drive five miles an hour down the road and gawk at the ocean. It will still be there if you take the time to park, and if it's not, we have bigger things to worry about, trust me.

And you're in an unfamiliar place, one you've never driven in before or have only visited a few times. I totally get that. It is OK to be confused about where you are and what you are doing. I'm that person in San Francisco, where I usually take public transit instead of driving so I fumble all over the road when I have to drive. But I'm also careful to leave myself a space cushion, signal what I'm doing, and look out for other drivers instead of assuming everyone's going to accommodate me magically just because I'm just so special.

And no, you don't get a special cell phone dispensation. Just like the rest of us, you need to follow the law. Hang up and drive -- or use a hands-free device. And that goes for texting, too. I get it, you're Very Busy and Important, but I prefer staying alive to the alternative.

The fact that you're from somewhere with endlessly flat roads and lands means that our highways scare you, and I get that too. When I was learning how to drive, 128 was very intimidating, what with having curves and things. I went slowly while I got the hang of learning to operate a motor vehicle and got accustomed to the road.

I also pulled over when people came up behind me and didn't make a big production about it. It's not an ego thing, okay? Some people like to go faster than me, and some people don't, and it's all good, so long as we all cooperate -- and, uh, obey the law, which mandates pulling over if five or more cars are behind you clearly waiting to pass. Do you have any idea how annoying and frustrating it is to be stuck behind someone who is going 20 miles per hour slower, or more, than you would usually drive? No, of course not, because you're the one slamming on the brakes at every curve and making me want to scream with every flash of your brake lights.

Speaking of passing, for the love of Pete, do not speed up on straightaways to make up for lost time or whatever. Because that will force me to go even faster when I pass you, which I will be doing, because I drive faster than you on the curves and I don't want to be stuck behind you for a minute longer than I have to be. And once I've signaled that I'm passing and moved into the other lane? Don't be a douche. Slow down to make it easy for me to get past you with plenty of room.

While you're at it, watch out for motorcycles. They love being out in this weather (and who can blame them, this is gorgeous riding weather) and they're smaller, more fragile, and harder to see. Give them lots of berth on the road, check your side mirrors regularly, and pay particular attention when you're changing lanes or pulling over because you never know who might be hiding in your blind spot.

Driving in the summer here regularly sends me into paroxysms of rage at the sheer depths of poor decision-making I see around me on a regular basis, even when I'm only going a few miles into town. I'm not the only one. Living in a tourist trap, no matter where it is, has a lot of drawbacks, and the traffic is one of them. Neither of us wants to have our day ruined, so why oh why, tourists, do you insist on being so ridiculous?!

Do your part if you're traveling: Don't be that obnoxious tourist. And I'll do my part, too: If you learn how to drive already, I won't have to be That “Rude” Local.