Last week I was laid up with the flu. My Brother, bless his generous soul, loaned me his car for a few days so I could get around a little easier. It had been awhile since I had driven in rush hour traffic and within minutes I was reminded of why I chose to stop driving: Edmonton drivers can be fucking crazy.
Now, crazy is a relative term. Compared to most drivers in Europe, North Americans are quite courteous and well-mannered. Over there, you’re taking your life into your hands every time you get behind the wheel. Edmonton drivers, while generally well-meaning, are really good at pissing each other off.
Within minutes of getting behind the wheel, my blood pressure and intensity rose. My already high propensity for foul language increased to a dangerous level. I worried about dealing out some fire-and-brimstone roadrage. I worried that I would snap, grab a tire iron from the trunk and go to work on a tailgating Mercedes. Or smash in the windows of an SUV just to see the look on the once smug owner’s face. Thankfully, I restrained myself. This time.
At this time of year, the roads are snow-covered, very slippery, and quite dangerous. This doesn’t stop The Guys with Trucks™; the over-compensating men who firmly believe that roadways were designed for them and them only. On my way to work on Friday I was tailgated by a Ford 1-ton all the way up Groat Road northbound. That’s a dangerous stretch of road even in the summer, but driving it in the winter requires an extra amount of caution. This was blithely ignored by my buddy in the truck. It was tempting to slam on the binders and have the guy pile into me, thus getting my brother a new car, but my conscience as a “sometimes” motorist won. Still. Guys with Trucks™. Get over yourselves.
Then there was the ‘lil old woman in the Lincoln Town Car going 35km/h in a 60 zone. HOLY SHIT! MOVE IT, WOMAN! IT’S THE PEDAL ON THE RIGHT FOR CRISSAKES! GET YOUR 75 YEAR OLD ASS IN MOTION! MOOOOOVE! There is a strange sense of satisfaction gained from yelling at old people.
On my way home on Friday, I approached a car full of backwards hat wearing punks, some of whom were “grooving” to a beat that I couldn’t hear. They weren’t speeding, but they were dangerously swerving in their lane – maybe to the music they undoubtedly had cranked. I came up beside them and looked over. I could hear the thud of overextended bass from their car. Three guys, hats askew. One girl, unimpressed. The guys looked over and gave me that “whadda you lookin’ at?” kind of look. I smiled back, and in a gesture of inter-motorist amity, mouthed the words “fuck you”. They didn’t take kindly to that and pulled in behind me, riding my ass most of the way home. At one point I slowed right down and allowed them to breeze past me, all of them waving their middle fingers. It was then that I yelled out my best “crotchety old man” saying, one that I save for special occasions:
“You little punks think you own this town?!”
It was an adventure for certain. It made me glad that I don’t have to drive on a regular basis. And it reminded me that my blood pressure has been much better since I stopped driving. The bus has its share of marks against it, but I’d take the harmless lunatics of the transit system over the self-entitled sociopaths of the open road any day.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?