Last night, Chicagoland got a little bit of snow. You may have heard about one of the side
yesterday or today. Unfortunately for me, I work in the city and live about 20 miles away. In traffic conditions on a good day around
5:00, this means about an hour and a half commute. Throw 4 inches of fresh snow on every road, and that becomes significantly longer.
On top of that, my car, a Toyota Camry XLE, is in the shop. Thing handles beautifully in the snow, so naturally, thanks to Murphy’s observations, I
don't get to drive that. Instead I'm in a 1990 Mazda Miata MX5. For those of you who don't know the car, it is a very small, very light rear wheel
drive roadster, and the one I'm driving has bald tires. Bummer for me, but it's stick so I can actually get some traction on it and make it go
forward instead of sideways. Maneuverability, however, is nil.
Naturally, living in such a rural community as Chicago, a lot of people have SUVs. I encountered the first genius about 5 minutes into my drive. This
guy has been behind me for a little bit, and is apparently also trying to get to Interstate 94. I suspect this driver was feeling lonely, because
there was never a moment when he was more than 3 feet away from my rear bumper. As I was turning onto the ramp to enter 94 and the back end of my car
started to catch up with the front end, I feathered the clutch and gas, putting the car into second. After showing all sides of my car to the guy
behind me who gets a very close look, he helpfully lays down on his horn as I get the car going forward as it should be. Then, as a helpful example,
the kindly driver guns it on the ramp, passing me on the shoulder, whips around, cutting me off and jumping on the expressway, quickly slamming on his
breaks, barely saving his pretty BMW SUV from slamming into the trailer of a semi. Deciding his example probably shouldn't be followed; I inch my way
onto the highway and join the communal crawl.
Two hours later, I can't stand the highway anymore. I get off and decide to take side roads. A courteous fellow in a Jeep Cherokee that has been
behind me for about a mile now after his little shoulder jaunt almost resulted in a big ol' accident with the car pulled over follows me down the
ramp, probably thinking the same thing. We both start going down a frontage road, along with half the people living in Chicago, and proceed with a 5
mile per hour crawl down the road. One of my headlights is misaligned, and the SUV behind me must see this. To help out, he pulls up very closely to
my bumper and starts flashing his brights over and over to illuminate the road a little better for me. He must have thought I was a bat, too, because
he used his horn as a form of sonar for me, as well, periodically pressing it.
A thought occurs to me that this is the behavior some...people
...display when they want the car in front of them to go faster. I look at the
car about 10 yards in front of me and dismiss that idea as being insane. The guy behind me is just trying to help. For about a half hour this person
is doing this, occasionally helping to illuminate the sides of the road, too, by swerving back and forth behind me. Finally the 4-way stop sign
holding everyone up comes into view. I get to the sign, and start to pull away from it when I catch a pocket of snow/slush and stop moving. Slowly
getting out of the little trap in the road, the SUV fellow bids farewell to me by laying on his horn, turning on his brights, and peeling out his four
wheel drive while turning around my car then left in the intersection. I hear his tires spinning furiously moments before a loud "chirp" sound. The
SUV barrels into the ditch on the side of the road after having gotten some traction, nose going down exposing his back bumper -- and a Kerry/Edwards
sticker -- to the world. A 3-1-1 call later and I'm back on the road, taking a far less traveled path.
I get onto 176 going west when a small sedan zips by me. He goes flying through a red light, break lights illuminated, with cars traveling
perpendicularly to his path. Somehow the guy gets through the intersection alive, but takes to going about 2 the rest of the time I'm behind him
after catching up with him shortly after the light turned green. Looking at the Wisconsin license plates, I think to myself, "you should know
better..." Driving behind my cheesehead friend, another SUV comes along. Again, this is rural Chicago, so you really need an SUV to get around. It
has nothing to do with a status symbol, which is why you see so many Hummers and BMW SUVs.
Apparently we are in the way of this person, because they keep trying to pass us in the left lane (it's a 2 lane highway), but hitting his breaks and
cutting back when he sees another car coming towards him. Otherwise, he's just helping me cope with the loss of the dome light in my Camry (the Miata
doesn't have one). I reposition my side view mirror until the kindly driver behind me's face is illuminated by his brights every time he gets within
about 5 feet of my bumper in my rear view mirror. Suddenly he decides to give me some following distance. Huh.
Finally turning into my neighborhood, I manage to get home with a whole new opinion of SUV drivers in Chicago. However, it could just have been that
all the mentally capable SUV drivers weren't on the road last night. That's probably it.
NOTE: If you happened to be driving an SUV and wound up in a ditch at Gilmer and Riverwoods roads after trying to show your annoyance with a little
red Miata On December 8th, feel free to send me a U2U, I'd love to chat