Gerardi's Rules of the Road

By Joe Gerardi

As I posted in my last article, I have been rolling up the miles between port St. Lucie, Florida, and Savannah, GA. I have travelled route 95 at all hours of the day and night, averaging 7 hours in the car for each trip. That means that I have become something of an expert at watching the cars that pass me, and that I pass, looking at license plates, (a small game that I play with myself to pass the time) and can now, with some authority, pass judgement on the travellers of this route. In so passing said judgement, I have concocted "Gerardi's Rules of the Road," and realize that other can just as easily pass judgement on me. The difference is, however, that I am citing no one person for their driving skills, (or lack thereof) but drivers in general, and what to watch out for. I do this merely as a public service. Please be aware that these rules only apply to the Southeast, and quite apropos to this article, YMMV.

Rule No. 1:
If you are driving along route 95, and are in very heavy traffic, and get cut off by some idiot that decides he/she needs the physical space you, your vehicle, and its passengers are occupying, even if there is absolutely nowhere for you to go, that person will be from North Carolina.

This has happened to me on more than one occasion. It is not a latent case of Road Rage against any one particular person, but the entire driving population of the State. The first occurance happened heading Northbound. I was in the left lane and slowing down because the person ahead of me was tailing a driver who had no idea where the gas pedal was located in their vehicle. (See Rule No. 3) I was less that a car length behind the person, and a pickup truck the size of a 747 comes careering up the right lane, and decides to pass the car ahead of him. Showing an incredible respect for my driving skills and reflexive reactions, he places the nose of that green leviathan directly between myself and the car ahead of me, and proceeds to change lanes. As I stood on the brakes, I was able to see the tail of this beast cross my bows like a destroyer in front of a canoe. It was the size of a billboard. This was beneficial for two reasons: I can see there, in its red white and blue glory, the North Carolina plate (proudly stating that their state was "First in Flight") and due to the highly polished tailgate, the fear reflected in my own eyes. I believe that the driver thought he had a lot more room than he needed, and probably thought I was a loathsome creature for braking at all. (The distance between his bumper, big enough for three people to walk abreast on, and the paper-thin, balsa-wood hardness bumber of my own laughable conveyance could easily have been measured in microns.)

This was not the only instance of this. Be it a Geo Metro (the size of a Hot Wheels) or a Ford Excursion, (tractor trailers give those monsters the right of way) makes no difference. The rules of Eminent Domain apply, and it's evident that if you're in their domain, it's imminent that they'll take it.

Rule No. 2:
If you are staying in the left lane beause you're on Cruise Control doing 85, and a driver decides to pull out of the right lane in front of you and pass a car doing 70 by going 71 mph, that car will be from South Carolina.

OK, Granted, I'm speeding here, and the other car is legally in the right. But, c'mon, I'm only keeping up with traffic. It will take this person the better part of the first decade of this century to get by the slower vehicle, and this invariably happens when there isn't another car behind me for, oh, let's say, several miles. I imagine it's too much trouble to wait for me to pass, and then go around the offending vehicle. This leads me to:

Rule No. 3:
The left lane is the fast lane. That's "F A S T" lane. If you are driving, and even driving at the speed limit, and ALLLLLLL the other cars are passing you, then GET THE HELL OUT OF THEIR WAY. Especially if they're passing you on the right side. And really especially if you are young, female, and driving a car with a Florida plate.

This is not rocket science, though perhaps the concept of velocity and relative speeds might have some scientific bearing on this. I have noticed that young ladies from Florida like the left lane. REALLY like the left lane, and by God, they feel they are entitled to drive there. It doesn't matter if you flash your brights at them, they are not leaving that lane. I believe that the State of  Florida is aware of this phenomenon, because quite frequently posted along the roadways are signs that state "Slower Traffic Keep Right." Now, the rocket science might come in on the fact that slower is, in and of itself, a relative term. Perhaps because of all the problems with education in this day and age the concept of relational values might not get through to the youth of today, but why is it that it's always young Floridian ladies in the age range of 19-24, wearing a baseball cap with their hair pulled through the back by the size adjustment, and sunglasses like those worn by Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix"? The younger female crop in Georgia don't do this. The younger female crop from most anywhere EXCEPT Florida don't do this. Now, not to be thought picking on women alone,

Rule No. 4:
If you are in the right lane, and there is no traffic in front of you, or behind you for friggin' MILES, and a car in your lane comes up behind you at a rate of speed that can be measured in several multiples of your own, and they wait until they are less than 6 inches from the rear of your car before changing lanes to pass, that car will be driven by a young male from NY. (Codicil: If it's at night, he will have his brights on.)

I'm a NY'er. I was born in Brooklyn. And even though I've been away from there for 20 years, I still have the accent and everything. But this one simply mystifies me. I will get out of anyone's way. I stay in the right lane if there's even a hint that someone is going faster than I and wants to pass. I was taught to drive on the streets on NY City, and I was taught road manners. NY males, between the age of 18-23, usually driving a white car (I have no idea at all about why that is. But in my experience, the cars are generally white) will come barreling up behind you, and I mean RIGHT UP behind you. You can even hear that crappy "BOOM BOOM BOOM" of the dreck they call music vibrating your jawbone before they switch lanes. There is NOTHING stopping them from switching lanes for at least kilometers behind me, but they somehow manage to stay in lane until they can see the grey hairs on the nape of my neck. They weren't grey before I started making these trips.

Rule No. 5:
If there is a homebuilt trailer, whose tires flatten out at every bump on the road to the thickness of a knish, causing the trailer to swing wildly into your lane REGARDLES OF WHICH LANE YOU ARE IN, then that vehicle will have a Pennsylvania plate.

I never knew there was such a large network of homebuilt trailer clubs. I also never knew that their exclusive home state was PA. I suspect that they have cornered the market in transporting steel bars up and down the coast in this cottage industry because every time the afformentioned trailer hits even the slightest ripple in the road, they start to bounce like they are incredibly heavy, tires flattening, and swaying wildly on the road. This one is The Amazon's pet peeve. She takes exception to these monstrosities bouncing and swaying wildly towards the door of the car she is sitting in, usually accompanied by a stern chastisement to me to get the hell out ot their way. Of course, someone from South Carolina is passing a car  ahead of me, and as I approach that, there's a Florida plate ahead of the South Carolina car causing everyone to slow down. As I do, a North Carolina pickup nosedives in front of me just in time for the guy from NY to come darting up behind me with his BOOM, BOOM, BOOM crap causing a more greys on top, jawbone vibrating, a look of fear in my eyes, a feeling of aggravation because of the girl from Florida, all the while, the trailer swaying back and forth across the road, The Amazon looking at me with disappointment because I didn't bother to avoid all this in the first place. The only way this all sorts out is to hit the gas, go as fast as my little coffee grinder of a car will go, get to to an exit with a Dairy Queen and offer her a Peanut Buster Parfait, while I have a cigarette (or three.) Then it's time to continue down the road to the next scenario.

Rule No. 6:
Truck Drivers, despite all the bad things people say about them, truly are the best drivers out there.

They really are. They have to deal with all these types listed above, my own personal driving idiosyncracies, and everybody else's, and still do their job. A lot of people complain about them, but I have found them to be polite, courteous, and always helpful. They will wait to pass if you are coming up. They will always appreciate you when you flash them that it's ok to pull into your lane. They will always let you go first, and they do not really have to do any of that. If you combine all the rules listed above, every trucker out there could do those things and get away with them, simply because their trucks are so much bigger than our cars. (With the exception of the afforementioned Excursion.) When you are on the on-ramp, they will always slow down to let you in, and they do a gazillion other things that I haven't even thought of. Hats off to you folks for dealing with people like I listed above, and having to deal with me, too.

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