January 20, 2010

Beep, Beep — Get Outta the Way!

Print More

Let’s talk about driving. For those of you who do not drive, this also applies, so don’t just put down this column thinking it’s irrelevant.

It’s cold, it’s icy, it’s often snowy. The roads here are full of potholes, dents and other treacherous features. Driving can be fun. But driving in Ithaca in the winter is not fun.

Growing up outside Boston, I learned the ins and outs of driving in Northeast winters: Do drive slowly. Don’t brake on ice. Do watch out for animals. Don’t swerve into other cars. Do look out for idiots.

That’s where a lot of other drivers come in — the idiots. Or, to be nice, the “otherwise intelligent people who seem to lose all calm, composure and cunning when behind the wheel of a car.” These people are the worst. Look for drivers who seem to be lost or confused — and watch out. Those driving sports cars in the Ithaca winter also tend to fall into this category. Such drivers are what make driving so unpleasant up here in the first place.

Most people have a “right” to drive in this country — that is, if you earn your license, are of age and haven’t had such a right revoked. That does not, however, mean that you have a right to clog up the roads and make driving dangerous for the rest of us. Frankly, if you’re enough of a moron to drive in the snow for the first time on the hills of Ithaca (hello, Buffalo Street), you don’t deserve to be driving in the first place.

So, OK, fine — you’re a terrible driver. Or, everyone says you’re a terrible driver and you’re in denial (if this is the case, everyone is probably right — from what I’ve seen, most people at Cornell are terrible drivers). If you still absolutely insist on driving, don’t make the rest of us look like idiots as well. That’s right — the huge-ass Cornell sticker on the back of your X5 does, in fact, give away the fact that you’re a Cornell student. Chances are someone will see you run over that curb, with your Cornell sticker. Thus making all Cornell students look like douches.

Beyond Cornell stickers, other bumper stickers can also make you douchetastic. Obama sticker, fine, you jumped on the bandwagon. Other stickers — your sorority, your local politician, your favorite restaurant — are just stupid. If I didn’t hate bad drivers so much, I’d almost say you deserve to get cut off (I won’t go that far). And, for the record, license plate frames are just as stupid.

(As a side note, it is OK for your parents to have bumper stickers, particularly Cornell and other schools. Bumper stickers are also fine if they are on inherited cars, are more than 10 years old or grant you access to a beach or club.)

Pedestrians are also part of the problem. Cornell walkers, you have the right of way. That does not mean that you have the right not to look before you cross the street. If I’m already halfway through the crosswalk, don’t walk into the damn crosswalk. In that case, I’m pretty sure I have the right of way. And if you run in front of my car, you probably deserve to be hit, despite every effort I make to avoid you (and I will make every effort — as a frequent pedestrian myself, I do appreciate how cold it is and how quickly you may be running to get to class).

I’m not claiming to be a perfect driver myself, or even a perfect pedestrian. I have a nasty speeding habit, and I’ve been known to be a bit more aggressive than is perhaps necessary when on the highway. But I admit my flaws, and am a polite and observant driver — and I don’t have a single bumper sticker on my car. Not to mention that I’ve never gotten into an accident (knock on wood). Unlike plenty, and I mean plenty, of people here.

Countless friends have had their cars smashed, bashed or crashed into. Most of these things happened in parking lots, without any mention, notice or a note. Imagine coming back to your prized Volvo to find a sideview mirror missing. Or the bumper smashed in on your Volkswagon. Not only do these assholes drive into other cars, but then they leave the scene as if nothing happened! And these people are our fellow Cornellians. These things happen in Cornell parking lots, in Collegetown, at fraternities. It’s not random visitors, or other college students, or local residents. It’s us. We are the problem.

I wrote an earlier column about why Ithacans are so resentful toward Cornell students. I have decided that a very large part of it must be Cornell drivers. Thus, if there is anything you take from this convoluted column, it is that you should not drive if you suck at it, and if you must drive, at least don’t embarrass yourself and others with a big ugly bumper sticker. Don’t do it. And if you see a little blue sedan with me driving, stay away, because if you hit me, I will probably kill you.

(Not literally, Dad, don’t worry.)

Original Author: Leigha Kemmett