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Driven Crazy by Impatient Motorists

September 13, 2000|Steve Chawkins

Even in the dim light of the parking garage, my wife liked her birthday gift.

It was a necklace, a silver chain threaded through weirdly shaped, pearl-colored blobs that might have been produced by an oyster with self-esteem issues.

"It's wonderful," she said, just as a driver waiting for my space leaned on his horn.

"What?" I said.

"I said I really like it," Jane said, with perhaps too much gusto.

It was a maddening situation. Empty, inviting, perfectly functional parking spaces were visible just a short stroll away. But in the fashion of the shark-like drivers knifing through the lots around L.A. malls, this guy saw what he wanted and just had to wait for it--even as other drivers stacked up behind him. Parking in the next available space was apparently unthinkable, as it would have meant walking an extra 30 feet to the exit, and this would have been difficult, in addition to being uncool.

I rolled down the window.

"Look," I said. "I'm giving my wife a necklace!"

He shot me a disgusted look and rolled up the ramp, along with the three or four cars that had been waiting behind him.

Now, I know I'm supposed to be indignant about loftier issues.

Thousand Oaks, for instance, is about to install cameras at busy intersections to catch red-light runners. Ventura and Oxnard already have them.

As a person whose job duties include being alarmed by ominous developments, I know this should set off bells for me.

Our civil liberties are being eroded!

Government snoopers are watching our every move!

The next thing you know, they'll put cameras in our bedrooms!

But truth to tell, I think fewer drivers will run red lights and fewer innocents will be maimed or killed. And it's tough for me to get upset about invasions of privacy when the offending (and non-offending) motorists are out on the street--as public a setting as any that can be imagined.

To me, the more ominous developments are reflected by my lunatic pal in the parking garage.

If we don't get out of our cars and walk the extra 30 feet, our legs will wither and become vestigial organs as brittle as French fries!

If we drive like L.A., we'll become like L.A.!

Slow down. Relax. Say "dude," like, a lot.

And practice the high sign. In New England, it's routine as drivers wend their way down two-lane roads in the country.

Gripping the steering wheel, you raise the fingers of one hand, as if to say, "Yes. We're strangers in our rolling metallic capsules, but we're linked in this mutual adventure and I wish you well." The other driver does the same.

It's a civilized gesture, a simple reminder that we're all in this together.

If they don't respond, go for your horn.


Steve Chawkins can be reached at 653-7561 or at

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