Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Road Rage

When I was a teen, shortly after I got my driver's license, I almost caused an accident because I was driving aggressively. I passed a car when it wasn't safe and almost hit an oncoming vehicle. Luckily, both the car that I was passing and the oncoming vehicle made room for me to get back in the proper lane and avoid an accident. It scared the crap out of me and my driving improved instantly.

I still liked to drive fast, but I was much more careful. A $35 speeding ticket in New York in 1988 didn't dissuade me from driving fast. A $150 speeding ticket in Massachusetts did. Over the years, I mellowed quite a bit. Now, I don't speed at all, I drive defensively, and I do my best to avoid accidents.

Sometimes, it is tough to drive safely. For example, if I am driving on the freeway and try to remain about two seconds behind the car in front of me, somebody will take that as an invitation to squeeze in the space in front of me. While I was going to school in Pullman, it was unusual for me to drive without having some kid in an SUV getting right on my tail and try to intimidate me into speeding.

I just finished reading an article that made me think about my driving habits and other driver's habits. It turns out that New York City has the most aggressive drivers in the United States. Can't say that I am surprised by that. What did surprise me was the breakdown of how people respond to drivers that piss them off. Normally, if I was told that 1% of a group of people do something stupid or strange, I would not be surprised.

In this case, 1% of the drivers polled admitted to slamming their car into the offending driver's car.

In a typical drive around Bremerton, I am sure that I see several hundred other cars on the road. Does that mean that there are several people out there that think it is appropriate to slam their car into mine because they don't like my driving? Kind of a sobering thought for me. In Washington D.C, the percentage was 4%!!! Pretty scary. You can read the article here. Here is an excerpt:

Seven percent were so angry they called the police and one percent admitted they had slammed into the car in front of them.

"In Washington, D.C., four percent of drivers admitted to slamming into another driver," said Bush. "They stand out in that one particular category."

I generally do a pretty good job maintaining my cool and rarely get upset by how other people drive. I am okay with pulling over and letting people who feel that their time is more important than mine pass me by. Over the last two weeks, however, aggressive drivers have managed to elicit a few curses from me.

The most recent one was last week. I was driving on a rural highway going 55 MPH when a pickup truck rapidly approached me from behind and was tailgating so close that I probably could have counted the dude's nose hairs in my rear-view mirror. After about 30 seconds of this, I came upon a slow vehicle turnout and let the guy pass me. He honked his horn and flipped me off when he went by. Why? Because I let him pass me, I guess. Don't really get it. Obviously, this guy was a jack-ass. That guy made me cuss.

About three weeks ago, on the same highway as the one that I just talked about, three motorcycles were following me. As we were leaving a small town on that highway, one of the motorcycles passed me and started speeding away from me. He passed me just prior to a long stretch of road where no passing is allowed and the small shoulders don't allow you to pull over. The motorcycle in front of me then started slowing down to just under 55 MPH until I started catching up to him, then he would RAPIDLY slow down forcing me to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting his bike and killing him. He then sped away from me again and repeated this idiotic maneuver. It dawned on me that he was trying to slow me down so that his two buddies following me could pass me. They didn't pass me. I couldn't safely pull over to let his buddies pass me. I slowed down to allow them to pass, and the guy in front of me pulled the same crap again at lower speeds.

This insane behavior continued for several minutes until we came out of the no-passing zone. Then the two guys behind me passed me. About five minutes after that, I came to another town and the three guys were parked outside a store talking. I pulled over in front of them, got out of my car, and slammed my door. One of the motorcyclists put his hands in front of him and said "Hey man, we're sorry about that." I guess I must have looked pretty pissed off. I turned around, got back in my car and drove away. I didn't see these guys again.

Good thing they weren't driving in Washington D.C.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Phone Has Been Ringing Off The Hook

While I was living in Guam, sometime in 2001, I gave up on using a home telephone. That happened after the third time my phone was disconnected because my bill wasn't paid on time. In one case, I had to bring the Guam Telephone Authority a copy of the canceled check to prove that I had paid. In the other two instances, the payment had been in the office in plenty of time, but had not been processed. In all three instances, my phone was reconnected and the reconnection fee was waived (Gee, Thanks, GTA!!!) but I had wasted half a day (or was it Hafa Adai?) standing in line at GTA to speak to a customer service representative. In any case, I had already had my fill of GTA and became a cell-phone only household ever since. Until now.

After living without a home phone for about the last 8 years, I decided to have one installed. What a pain in the butt!! I have had the phone hooked up for less than 48 hours. I have eight missed phone calls. I haven't bothered to answer it yet because I have not given out my phone number to anyone. The numbers stored in my caller ID and the two messages that were left for me lead me to believe that all of the calls are from telemarketers.

Who ever buys things from telemarketers? There must be people out there that do buy stuff or they wouldn't call. The second my phone rings and it is not someone that I know calling me, I feel instant resentment for the disturbance, like when I was awakened from my nap yesterday evening. I just registered with the national no-call registry, so I guess the calls, or at least most of the calls, will have stopped in about a month. I hope it works.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Settling In

I got my cable hooked up yesterday and now have television and reasonable internet access. Actually, the Comcast cable modem is way, way faster than the Time Warner Roadrunner that I had while I was in Pullman. It is also pretty nice to be able to turn on the television and watch a little news in the morning before taking off for work. I had been watching Band of Brothers to pass the time in the evenings. I think that is one of the best World War II movies that I have seen.

I appreciate the comments on my last post. For Nereus, I am in East Bremerton on Fairgrounds Road.

I had to laugh at the warning to watch out for Diamond Parking. My first day ran pretty late and I didn't have a chance to look at a bus schedule, so I drove in for my second day. The parking cost $6 and I had six $1 bills in my wallet. I was having trouble fitting them into the box and ended up putting in the bills in groups of two. When I finished work and walked out to my car, there was a blue envelope on the windshield containing a $25 ticket stating that I had paid only $2 for the parking spot.

There was a number to call to appeal the ticket, so I gave it a try. I waited through a pretty extensive recording which ended by saying "If you are calling to appeal a parking ticket, please leave a detailed message after the tone."

So I waited for the tone.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

After what was probably about a minute of waiting, a diamond parking enforcement car (golf cart?) came by and it had a different phone number on the side of its door. I decided to give that number a call. A woman immediately answered the phone and I explained that I had some difficulty putting the dollar bills into the payment slot and that I had put them in in groups of two bills, but that I had paid the full $6. She told me that they had found four $1 bills in the slot right next to the one that I was putting my money in and that the missing bills had probably found their way to that slot. She ended up voiding the ticket, so in the end it didn't cost me any more than a few minutes of cell phone time.

I did get bus schedules that day and found a bus that picks me up at a Park & Ride just about a quarter-mile down the road from my apartment and drops me off at a gate that is right next to my building at the shipyard about 20 minutes before I have to be there. The shipyard paid for my bus pass, so I will stick with the bus for now.

I am getting all of my stuff put away (slowly) and everyday my apartment looks a little more home-like. It will be nice when I can come home and relax and not worry about putting another box of stuff away, but overall, I am getting settled in nicely.