Monday, January 12, 2009

Playing chicken

It's amazing, how may psycho's are running around out there. I should talk? Years ago, my friend Big Al Schouldenrien told me that if I lived in New York City where he came from somebody would kill me. Perhaps I was that bad, but nobody ever remembers their youth that way.

Here, where we sometimes have a lot of snow, as we do this year, the side streets get really narrow. A small percentage of agressive drivers charge through a single lane wide passage between park cars challenging any oncoming car to hit them. I don't approve of driving like that, it would be dangerous on clean pavement, but on snow, it's really dangerous. The idea is that agressive driver is going to force the on coming car to pull over and give him the whole street. My reaction to this kind of thing is usually to leave them room to get by, but not much more than the minimum amount of room.

The guy did stop, he wanted the whole street, not just enough to get by. He flipped the back of his hand dismissively, about 4 flips worth. I returned the gesture, and waited for him to pull by. We waited for a few minutes. All of a sudden his passenger got out and started walking, I should have read that as trouble. Since the guy wasn't moving, I picked up the paper and started to read it. About this time, another car pulled up right behind him. After about 5 minutes he got out and came over to the cab and started screaming at me, saying I was supposed to pull over like I was parked so he could get by. I pointed at the passage next to the cab and told him he had enough room to get by, and that he should get back in his car and do just that, pull by. He went psycho. He had a car key in his fingers and swung through the window a couple of times, making me duck back into the center of the front seat. I don't know that he would have cut my face with that key, but when people go crazy like that, who know's what they're going to do. I was asking the dispatcher to get the cops for me, and he broke off the attack and got in his car and drove past me, vanishing into the day's traffic.

The next car's driver did the same dismissive hand wave, I returned it. He drove through without incident. Then I drove down the street.

Why did I do this? I could have just parked and watched this crazy man drive by without ever discovering that he was crazy. If I'd known he was crazy, I probably would have done just that, but we all assume that the other people on the street are more or less normal. His passenger got out and walked, he knew there was trouble about to happen and he didn't want to be there to see it.

The normal way the majority of us handle streets like this is to slowly pull through, both directions, until it gets tight, and who ever is there second normally stops at a wide place and lets the other car come past. I do that all the time. I realized while thinking about it afterward that the guy was playing chicken. Chicken is a classic teenage game, usually played by boys. The absolute classic version of the game is played on a dark highway at night. 2 boys in cars will drive toward each other, toward a certain head on collision. The boy who at the last minute decides he doesn't want to find out what happens in a head on collision pulls to the side, is declaired chicken, and is of course the loser. What that fool was doing, and the small group of other drivers like him, was playing chicken in broad daylight on a slick snow surface. The streets are where I work, that kind of play makes my workplace much more dangerous than it needs to be.