Timid drivers are the worst. I’m mainly thinking of people who’d rather sit and block traffic rather than risk being clipped as they try to pull around a driver who’s looking to make a left turn. But judgmental drivers are nearly as bad. Last week I was edging my way across the lanes of West Third Street, and a woman looking to pull out from the other side began frowning and repeatedly shaking her head. Performing her disapproval! I hate drivers like this (I never frown and shake my head at anyone), but they’re totally commonplace so what can you do?
A couple of days later I ran into a lethal combination — a timid and judgmental driver in one.
I was about to pull out of an east-facing Sony Studios parking lot (Madison gate) around 9:30 or 10 pm. But improperly because I’d nudged my way into the street. About half of my Mini Cooper was sticking out, but I was totally stationary as I waited for the light to change. And there was absolutely zero traffic on Madison, which is a four-lane street. Along comes a woman driver on my left side, driving in the lane closest to the sidewalk, and she comes to a full stop. “What’s she doing?” I said aloud to my two passengers. “Just pull back in,” one of them said. So I backed up four or five feet and the woman moved on.
In performing a freeze-stop the woman was (a) showing excessive concern that I might suddenly lunge in front of her, despite the light being in her favor and (b) acting out a form of judgment. She was saying “Oh, you’re so anxious to leave the parking lot that you can’t restrain yourself, that you’re halfway into the street? Well, that’s impolite and arrogant, and so I’m expressing my disapproval by stopping dead in the street. I could turn slightly to the left and just drive around you, but it’s more satisfying to come to a dead stop and just stare at you.”
I’m not saying I wasn’t incorrect by having nudged into the street, but this ridiculous episode would never have happened in Rome or Paris. Drivers there aren’t hung up on judgment and throwing little dramatic fits. They just drive around and go on their way.