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Driving Etiquette for Visitors to Southern California

License and registration, punk.

Heading east on Hwy 8, I made for Rich’s house in La Mesa, a remote outpost on the perilous lip of El Cajon.

Suddenly, as I passed the Fletcher Parkway exit, a motorcycle stolen by an Earnest Hemingway lookalike in a helmet, veered across the white lines of my lane to pull within inches  of the driver door on my Tacoma 4×4.

The chubby old fart cocked his head to the right, locked eyes for a split second, then muttered an inaudible string of syllables.

I watched in gob-struck disbelief, but resolved to stay the course, unwilling to jerk my pick up into the adjacent lane.

The bike accelerated, pulling across the front of my truck to merge into the slow lane on my right, presumably to take the exit at Jackson Drive. Adrenaline subsided while  howls of laughter rushed in to take the place of fight or flight.

You really don’t have to leave San Diego to find adventure. Mr. Hemingway hadn’t reckoned his manly crack at intimidation would shrivel to riotous jest.  He switched tactics, tailing  me to the Severin exit.

Cautious but undaunted, I waited till the last possible moment to squeeze into the opening available to cars which ascended the ramp on its left hand side. Mr. Hemingway opted for discretion over tight squeeze and proceeded east into El Cajon.

Honest to blog, what was up this crusty curmudgeon’s hemorrhoid-afflicted bum? I checked my rear view mirror before changing lanes and saw nothing. I can only guess that Earnest must have been changing lanes simultaneously in reckless violation of maximum limit.

I recall a similar scene from halcyon days of my headstrong youth. I headed south on College Avenue, leaving behind SDSU and an earful of lectures. I changed lanes, knowing that at 35mph the rider in my mirror had ample room to anticipate a lane change, especially since the limit past the Senior Center speed trap  posted at 25mph.

I heard the shriek of rubber on blacktop and saw the reflection of a young stud mounted on motocross, struggling to reign his wobbly machine back on a straight line.

You're No. 1!

The cyclist pulled alongside my coupe, shouting and shaking his fist to present a single exclamation point that bobbed atop his empty grip. I choose to believe he meant “You’re No. 1!”  But other interpretations may apply here. I laughed mightily, blowing several smoochy faces at him, punctuating my reply with the classic thumb-on-nose-with-wiggly-fingers salutation.

Strangely, the rider began to gesture madly as if to beckon “Please, let us pullover posthaste and discuss this issue as gentlemen.” I ignored  impassioned requests until my wannabe bad ass hit the road in search of new adventure.

I can’t speak for the rest of this great nation, but we do things differently in California. Everybody speeds. Slow pokes and old folks stay glued to the slow lane or risk enduring our wrath. We expect you to burn rubber. It’s the law.

But if you plan to practice light-speed violation outside the fast lane, don’t come crying to us when you get popped for rear-ending one of our fine, upstanding dragsters.

Slow pokes and old folks stay glued to the slow lane!

Behold, I say unto thee, thine own bad choice revealeth not mine own will.

We greet each sunrise, a stoic lot who resolve to put our lives on the line every day we get behind the wheel.

When daredevil driving style launches you into a bouncing fireball of wreckage and mincemeat, we do not bow our heads to invoke the conscience of the stars.

Die of stupidity in Southern California and we chalk it up to Social Darwinism. You failed to adapt, racing wildly to a sticky end, and wound up as unhappy assignment for a highway clean up crew with a really big spatula. Case closed.

Let’s review a few finer points for folks who plan to test the roads in Southern California. First, cars are like guns. Don’t play chicken with your putt-putt as offensive menace, unless you sport the stones to take a hard hit from the counter punch answering your vehicular jab at another driver.

Blind to the mere possibility of danger, hardened veterans of the SoCal blacktop may return your feint with the crunch of sudden impact. Nonetheless, count yourself a lucky punk.

The State of California regularly documents cases of road rage,  proving our drivers  won’t hesitate to dent you with a bumper, while remaining equally capable of denting you with a high caliber slug. If you plan to wield your wheels like a club, ya better show common sense and keep a loaded .45 in the glove box. Otherwise, you join our list of tragic bylines, leading and bleeding on KTLA’s 5 O’clock news–another fool who chose to sling an empty holster and 4 door sedan  as lethal weapons in a gun fight.

Scruffy won't be coming home tonight.

I still recall the instant when I honked my teensy Volkswagen Fastback at a cab on Fairmont  Avenue, that came to an abrupt halt to snag a metered spot on the street.

In my rear view, a leathery bald head leaned out from the cabbie’s window and bellowed “F— You!” in a lung-shrinking voice that boomed across several city blocks. I exploded with guffaws.

That moment made my day. While this ain’t New York, we do respect zesty panache and urge that you speak clearly when communicating across high velocity highways.

Finally, if your pet is running around like a rabid deer dog, let’s hope it stays away from the interstate. Any beast smaller than a bumper car will remain in my cross hairs, because my muscle and bone are worth more than your mutt.

I refuse to shuffle off this mortal coil or endanger passengers, swerving aimlessly in a screeching disaster for the sake of a dumb domestic pet. The excellent professionals with State Farm Auto Insurance will enthusiastically restore my grill.  Sorry, Scruffy, you made your choice.

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