Saturday, November 26, 2011

A new post?

Since my last post, I have actually moved across state lines... twice... once to Tennessee and then on to Illsinois (both 's's are silent). Since I no longer had to face Utah drivers on a daily basis, it didn't seem exactly fair to continue to complain about them. This was especially true since I soon discovered that Tennessee drivers had their own little quirks that also drove traffic wild (no one in the state drives over 55 mph!). It became doubly especially true when we moved to Isllinois and I started letting the Chicago Transportation Authority handle my commute for me (traffic on the rails is not nearly as bad as the roads - but when they have an accident, it's for real). However, I enjoy writing more than I enjoy complaining about traffic, and since I can't (honestly) do both at the same time now, I figured I could at least take up writing again. So here's a post that doesn't have anything to do with Stupid, Utah, or Driving. Go figure

As you may know, we've been living in Chicago for a few months now - long enough to get a pretty good feel for the city and the people in it. I have to say that, undoubtedly, and I'm being absolutely serious about this, my favorite part of living here is the accent. If anyone is unfamiliar with the deep, blue-collar Chicago-speak, I highly recommend you seek out your nearest Chicagoan and make friends. Barring that, please feel free to search Youtube for those old SNL skits about 'Da Bears'. Unfortunately I don't know how to type Chicago style (and all my google searches to that end are only trying to correct my grammar), but its sort of a mix of the classic Wisconsonian and a lot of weird vowels (often with a healthy dose of profanity). Good times all around.

Wendy is worried that our kids might start to pick it up - especially as they get into school and make more friends with the natives. I'm more worried that they won't. The way I see it, I lived in Boston until I was five, and couldn't pronounce the letter 'r' until I was in middle school. Speaking like a weirdo builds character. (I still can't pronounce 's' - I've got loads of character) I suppose that Chicagoan fits better with a 45 year old man with a bear gut, a mustache, and a Bears jersey than a cute young pre-schooler, but who am I to judge?

There are plenty of other things to love about Chicago - deep dish pizza, hot dogs with no ketchup, wind... lots of wind... but if we move away from here with a couple of young ladies who start every sentence with 'so uh... da bears, eh?' I'll be a happy dad.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Calming the rage within

Those of you who have had the privilege (and it is a privilege) of riding in a car while I'm driving know that I am not exactly the epitome of serenity behind the wheel. As a matter of fact, some of the things that I do could (possibly) be classified as road rage-y.

Now, despite the wide variety of (highly justified) reasons I have for screaming at, giving dirty looks to, and questioning the ancestry of my fellow drivers (see previous posts for examples), I have decided that it may not be best for me and my family if I continued along my present path. And so, several months ago, I decided that, for better or for worse, I needed to calm the road warrior within me and embrace the zen of Utah driving. With that goal in mind, I set off on my plan.

First idea - remembering scores of talks from my young men's leaders about how music affects us, I decided to switch my commuting music habits. No more alternative, rock, classic rock, heavy metal, hair metal, death metal, or polka. I now listened to two stations exclusively - KBYU and KUED (utah's PBS affiliates). What did this mean for me? A steady diet of classical music, elevator jazz, and hour-long commentaries on the poetry of Robert Frost.

It didn't work.

Turns out, I don't mind classical music, but its hard to hear anything classical at freeway speeds (at least in my car - maybe new cars actually make an attempt to block out engine noise). All of the rest of that stuff - not my cup of tea.

So the great music experiment (which lasted a month) didn't end up helping too much.

Next idea - slow down. I've noticed that most of my rage comes from people who have a complete inability to understand the concept of multiple lanes on a freeway. I figured that if I never even tried to drive in the passing lane, I wouldn't get mad at the people who instead used the passing lane as a put-on-your-makeup lane. What did this entail for me? Always leave with plenty of time to get from one place to another without needing to be in a hurry.... let's just say that idea two didn't last near as long as idea one.

By this point, I was getting desperate, as my genius daughter was learning new vocabulary at an amazing rate. As a quick fix, I began referring to all my fellow drivers as 'buddy'. (as in "hey buddy, watch where you're going!" or "get in your own lane buddy!")

Anyways, to make a long story less long: I am happy to report that I now am in complete control of myself as I drive down the freeway, and all without the aid of bonsai trees, rock gardens, or sand patterns. What's the secret to my newfound inner peace? My ipod. I love that thing, and the free downloads of podcasts like cartalk, wait wait don't tell me, and the bill simmons report. Any ideas for other (free) pod-tainment?

Monday, March 1, 2010

... and one other thing about Utah

So this post isn't about driving, just another thing that really bugs me - people.

For those of you not watching local Salt Lake City news - the Jordan School District has recently undergone a nasty divorce from the newly-formed Canyons School District. JSD, formerly the largest school district in Utah, and one of the largest in the country, is now flat broke. Without going into the details of all the (stupid) 'cost-cutting' measures that are currently underway to try (in vain) to keep the district from going under, I want to focus on what I feel is the heart of the issue: Utahns.

The residents of the JSD pay property taxes to support the schools. These crusaders of 'self-reliance' and 'liberty' are now begging the rest of the state (i.e. us*) for tax money to support their bloated and under-funded schools, while at the same time once again voting down a tax increase. Now my sympathy glands were just about to kick until I heard the following: average property taxes for people in the district range from $10-15/month. These people will proudly tell you how they have not had a tax increase in over twelve years (way to stick it to the man! er.. your kids!).

Places I regularly spend more than $10-15/month include:
Cable TV
DVR service

Seriously folks, give up the delicious, delicious five dollar footlongs and help some poor teacher keep his/her job!

*Thanks to our family's ongoing plan to never actually own a house (3.75 years and counting) we don't actually pay property taxes, but if we did...

Maybe I am a bad Driver

So roughly last year I asked the question of whether or not I am a bad driver. This morning I finally received my answer.... and here's the story

Mondays are not typically my favorite day of the week and early mornings are not typically my favorite time of day. Needless to say, early Monday mornings are just about the worst part of the week for someone like me. This morning was especially awesome, because I had to be at the hospital for work very, very early. (ok, 7:15 AM, which really isn't that early, but I'm the one telling the story here) I managed to roll out of bed, shower, and get dressed by 7 - which would have been fine if the hospital weren't a 25 minute drive away. Luckily early morning traffic isn't too bad along my route. Unluckily, I still live in Utah, in the winter. When I went out to my car (late and still half-asleep) my windshield was still frosted over.

I gave a half-hearted attempt at scraping some spots clear to see through, cranked the defrost up to maximum and hit the road. By the time I got to State St it was apparent, even through my sleep-induced haze, that I couldn't actually see the road. I was navigating by the glare of the red light through the frost. Not willing to be later than I actually was, and not willing to actually get out and scrape the windshield I did the only reasonable thing to do in that situation. I rolled down the passenger window, stuck my head out, and got on the freeway.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm a bad driver.

(and I made it on time!)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A new post for a new road!

So one of our favorite pastimes here in the Beehive state is road construction. For some reason we just can't seem to get enough of those lovely orange cones, that loose asphalt all over the road (and cracking our windshields), and of course, our friendly neighborhood sign-holding guys. Quick aside - I'm still up in the air on whether that is the best job in the world or the worst job in the world. On the one hand, you get paid to stand and hold a sign. Your job qualifications are basically: 1. Remain mostly upright. That's it! On the other hand, you have to be outside, all day, in any weather, and you can't surf the internet when you get bored (and let's face the facts folks, that's a big job perk for sitting in a cubicle). Of course, with the near-ubiquity of web-enabled phones, the downsides are shrinking... something to consider for my next career.

Anyways, back to road construction. It seems that the Utah Dept. of Transportation (motto: You can turn an ox-cart around on these roads!) follows the 'just-not-quite-enough' philosophy of road construction. Case in point: the I-15 corridor through Salt Lake. Call me crazy, but I seem to remember a massive, horrendously expensive overhaul of that road about 10 years ago coinciding with those Olympics that were here. We got new lanes, fancy signage, bas-relief ski jumpers on all our bridges, the whole shebang. Now the whole mess is under construction again. Why? Well, it seems that all those new lanes are operating at full capacity already. Now, you or I, if asked to design the freeways around here, might assume that the area will continue to grow at a somewhat constant rate and... oh, I don't know, add more than one lane at a time. You know, just so you don't have to tear up the road every few years. You'd think that a little foresight would save us all a lot of commuting hassle. Of course, the same people who are in charge of roads are also trying to keep an under-used public transportation system in the black financially, so maybe they're a lot smarter than we all think. I wonder if they need more sign-holding guys?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Am I a bad driver?

For the past two weeks I have been reading a new book in my spare time. It's called "Traffic" (by Tom Vanderbilt) and its a sociological look at why we drive the way we do. I have found this book interesting, if only because it answers my question of what people actually do with a degree in sociology (write books apparently). Though the book raises a number of interesting points (like most bad traffic being caused by not treating other cars as people), one of the most telling points he's raised so far is a quote by some formula one driver (that's like NASCAR for europeans). Basically he says there are two things men won't admit they're bad at, one of which is driving (the other doesn't fit in with my blog...). As a man, I take umbrage at that statement. I would happily admit I were a bad driver, if I were. But I'm not. So I won't.

But hypothetically speaking, if I were a bad driver, would I know it? When I was in high school I was in an inordinate amount of close calls (at intersections, in parking lots, on the freeway etc) many of which were not crashes only due to my finely tuned reflexes and split-second timing (thank you Nintendo!). Of course, none of these were my fault. At the time, I chalked most of those up to the fact that other people were simply trying to put my car (a 1987 Chevy Nova that smelled like a skunk) out of its misery. Sort of an automobile mercy kill. In retrospect, however, I may be willing to admit that it's possible that I wasn't a great driver in high school (nah..).

Fortunately, now that I'm old and grown (and no longer driving a car with holes in it), I'm the epitome of a gentleman driver, and perfectly willing to admit it.

(p.s. of course the formula one driver didn't say anything about women being bad drivers - that just goes without saying!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I have lived in Utah off and on for 8 years now, and I can't remember a single winter when we didn't experience several large snowstorms. I think it would be safe to assume that it has been snowing in Utah for quite some time now, possibly even hundreds of years. I bring this up, because for some reason the first real snowstorm of the year seems to come as a shock to everybody with a car. What? what is this white stuff? What's going on? Snow you say? In Utah - a state who's very existence is to give people a place to come ski - and we have snow here? I'm just floored.. I never would have expected this. I mean yes, we had snow last year, and every single winter since I've been alive, but THIS winter too? Who would have guessed?

A quick reminder - snow, like it's cousin rain, is made out of water. Snow typically falls when its cold outside. Cold water turns into ice. Ice is slippery. Tires do not stick to ice.

Anyways, it's 9:00 AM and the news has reported 34 traffic accidents on the freeways alone this morning. Maybe snow is just nature's way of taking care of all the swervers and tailgaters out there. Maybe people just like to live dangerously. Either way, try and be safe out there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Freeway - Part III

So we're on the freeway, driving along, listening to the radio and minding our own busi... hey! get out of my lane! Crazy driver!

That's right, today we're discussing the swerve. Perhaps my least favorite of the '900 signs you may be a bad driver'. Swervers, for many reasons, just can't seem to keep their car in one lane. Sometimes they're distracted (ooh, shiny!), sometimes they're sleepy, sometimes they're changing shirts, shaving, and drinking a coffee while talking on their bluetooth (I saw this on Foothill once). Maybe they just don't feel like letting 'the man' keep them in one lane, and want to express their free drivinig spirit. Whatever the cause, to all swervers out there I only have one simple request: flush your car keys down the john, because you're a danger to yourself and those around you. Seriously, get help.

According to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) (PS. any time your acronym needs an acronym, its time to shorten your name); the minimum - that's right, MINIMUM allowable width for an interstate freeway lane is 12 feet. For reference, the width of an average car is 6 feet. That means, that the lane is twice as wide as your car! It should not be that difficult to avoid other lanes!

Remember that Brady Bunch episode where Greg and Marcia are competing about who is the better driver? The final test is who can park the closest to a traffic cone with an egg on top without knocking over the egg? No? Ok, maybe I watched too much tv as a child. In any case, the point is that Marcia (who won), knew how big her car was and had a good sense of where she was in the lane. Let's all be like Marcia (first time I've ever said that) and focus on keeping all parts of our car in one lane at a time when driving.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Getting Lost

So I've heard that not everyone has the same healthy obsession with maps that I do. I've also heard that occasionally some people, especially when driving in unfamiliar neighborhoods, get lost. (to those who get lost in familiar neighborhoods.. well, I'm not sure what to say to you guys)

Now, before anyone gets upset, I have no problem with getting lost. I've even thought about maybe doing it sometime myself (although as a guy, I of course have an innate perfect sense of direction, kind of like a pigeon). However, I do have problems with what I'll call the 'obviously lost'. You may have met these people, they tend to slow down, stop, or even back up in the middle of the street. I'm guessing these people are looking for an address or a street.. I'll give them a hint, the houses are in order! Very rarely do builders throw numbers on houses or streets at random, well, except for the streets along Jefferson, but they're special cases.

Also, sometimes lanes end, merge together, or become left/right turn only. This may catch you off guard. My request, if you can't SAFELY avoid the merging/turning thing without endangering traffic PLEASE don't endanger traffic! It is ok to make a turn you didn't plan on and then turn around and get back on track. It is not ok to stop in the middle of the lane because you don't feel like merging/turning, really, I promise.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


At some point in your driving lifetime there may come a time when you will need to make a turn. Not often, mind you, but its been known to happen, and we think its best to prepare for all eventualities - just like the boy scout motto: 'let's see if it burns!' wait.. the OFFICIAL motto: 'Be Prepared'.

Now there are a few things to consider when making a turn while driving. First: know where you are turning. Sounds pretty simple, I know, but turning can be quite a process (at least you'd think so seeing some people attempt it) and so its best to avoid the last minute, wheel-squeaking, up-on-two-wheel turns that are so popular in some places. Knowing where we're turning lets us slow down a bit and keep any unsecured backseat passengers from getting to know each other too well.

Anyways, once we've determined ahead of time where we'd like to turn, we can begin the preparations with... the turn signal! (see previous post for details on this marvel of modern driving) In many places special lanes exist for people who wish to turn left and even those who are turning right. USE THEM! Left and right turn lanes allow people to exit the flow of traffic BEFORE they slow down to turn. Quite frankly I'm amazed at the people who slow down to a crawl and then get in the turn lane and speed up to make a turn (I'm convinced these are the same people who put on their pants to get in the shower).

Now these turn lanes aren't around everywhere, so when you need to make a turn without a lane, please consider the fact that it may be possible that the people behind you are not also turning (we're sure you're a popular person, but we may not be headed to the same place). Let's all help each other out and try to get out of the way as much as possible when slowing down for a turn. Thanks!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Traffic Light - Part II

Now that we've developed a radical new system for handling those traffic lights, we'd better talk about driver responsibility. At some point in our lives we'll find ourselves stopped at a red light (well, those of us on the new system will, some die-hards will no doubt stick the old "Go Fastest" philosophy) and occasionally we may find ourselves at the front of the line waiting for a green. I would like to nominate a new position for these people that I'll call "the light captain".

You see, Mr/Ms Light Captain has a very important responsibility as the leader of our little line of cars. It is they who must be ready for that light to change and lead out by going on green (that can even be our slogan - "go on green!"). So Mr/Ms Light Captain, stop fiddling with that stereo, put down that lipstick, hang up that phone, and stop talking with your friend in the back seat. You must watch that light and help us all by setting a new standard for traffic signal efficiency - Go on Green!

The Traffic Light

Traffic lights - the first electrical traffic light was invented here in Salt Lake City in 1912. The first interconnected traffic light system in the world was installed five years later, also here in Salt Lake City. Roughly five minutes later some guy in a model T ran a red light at 4mph, thus inaugurating a fine Utah tradition of having no idea what traffic lights mean.

Now, your average Utah driver has one of two interpretations for the colors on a traffic signal -
A) Green - go, Yellow - go faster, Red - go fastest
B) Green - stop, Yellow - begin inching into the intersection, Red - stop undecidedly in the middle of the intersection before deciding to go on through

Now in my youth we played a little game called "Red Light/Green Light" wherein you would go when "Green Light" was called and stop when a "Red Light" was called. I propose we adopt a similar system with regards to traffic lights. When the light is green - go, when red - stop. But what about those pesky yellow lights you ask? Let's just say that if you can't make it through the intersection before the light goes red, you should have stopped.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Road Work Ahead

Is there a less welcome sign on the highway?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Utah County

Utah county...

...where swerving in and out of the carpool lane like its an extra fast lane happens.

...where going 15 in a 35 and 75 in a 50 happens.

...where merging on I-15 at 45mph happens.

...where driving along the shoulder instead of merging into one lane so you can be three cars ahead at the light happens.

...where driving a car held together with duct tape and fishing line happens.

...where completely missing a green light happens.

...where three inches is enough space to pull your 2-ton pickup into the next lane happens (but only if you're in a hurry).

...where fitting six college kids into a 1982 Ford Pinto happens.

...where making me glad I live in Salt Lake happens.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Freeway - Part II

Well, we've gathered our courage, strapped ourselves in, and we're headed down the onramp - that's right, we're a-goin' on the freeway! Everything's going good so far, just driving al.... oh no! My lane is ending! Panic!!

No, no, don't panic, that would just be silly. We just need to practice the fine art of merging into traffic. You see, as we enter the freeway we match our speed to those in the lane next to us and find an empty spot in the next lane that we can safely enter (you didn't forget about the turn signal, did you? Good work!) Now, some of our more adventurous readers may come from the 'slow down and wait for someone to let me in' school of merging. To which we reply - please stop!

So we're on the freeway, cruising along with the top down, singing along with the radio, remembering that we don't drive a convertible - quick put the top back on!
Now on the freeway, especially through town, we've got our choice in lanes. I'm going to name those the slow lane, the middle lane, and the passing lane. That's right, not the fast lane. You see, fast is such a relative term - all our relatives have different definitions of fast. To grandma, anything faster than a horse qualifies as fast, where dad isn't going fast until at least 88mph (maybe he's trying to go back in time?) So let's keep that far lane open for passing, not for driving 'fast' (and here I'm talking directly to you grandma - that line of cars behind you is NOT there to read your collection of humorous bumper stickers).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Freeway - Part I

Ah the freeway - serving America proudly since 1956.

If the idea of traveling above 50 miles per hour frightens you, perhaps the freeway isn't for you. Please consider one of the many convenient alternatives to freeway driving. For example: public transportation, asking your grandkids for a ride, and of course walking. Remember, the speed limit, unlike the speed of light, can be safely approached without worrying about any of those pesky relativistic effects.

Of course, we should all remember that the speed limit is an upper bound, not a lower bound. I-15 in Salt Lake County is NOT the autobahn, the salt flats or the Indy 500. While we are all curious as to just how fast your nifty new motorcycle can go, none of us wish to scrape bits of you off of our cars. Also, we all know that you have places to be, often far more important places to be than the rest of us suckers going home to our families, but we prefer not to be treated as obstacles preventing you from reaching 100mph. Leave early and slow down! Better to be a little late than a lot dead.

The Turn Signal

Ah, the magnificent turn signal - flashing so pretty on the front of our cars. And look! There's one on the back as well! How droll. However shiny the turn signal may be, let us not forget the many rules of the signal -

1. Turn signals let other cars know when you plan to turn. Yes, we know that sometimes you yourself don't know when you plan to turn. Sometimes swerving across three lanes to make a left AT THIS INTERSECTION seems like proper driving procedure. However, for the sake of those around you, please turn on your signal at least three seconds before you madly swing your car around.

2. The turn signal is an indication of what you'd LIKE to do. Turning on the signal does not automatically clear a space in the lane next to you on the freeway. Weird, I know. Actually, you still have to wait for a space to open up - preferably a space large enough to fit your car. Remember, blinking a little light doesn't give you the right to cut somebody off - driving a huge, expensive car does.