My driving makes Clayton nervous. For a long time I got offended about it. I could (and still can) only take so much of his quick “Whoa, whoa, whoawhoawhoa!”-ing or stomping on the imaginary brake on his side of the car or interrupting what I was talking about at the moment with “BRAKES! BRAKES!” He says he does it because he figures I’m so distracted with talking to him, or checking my blind spot, or basking in his beauty that he’s acting as a second pair of eyes on the adventure that is our daily commute. But from my perspective, the only reasons I see for him doing this is because he either 1) doesn’t know how peripheral vision works, or 2) he doesn’t trust my driving. And I know its not the former because he’s a physicist and I know for a fact he had to pass an optics class to get his degree in college.
The latter just pisses me off.
So after one particularly-desperate gasp at our “imminent doom” (read: a lane change), I asked him what his deal was. I was like, “I am going to play psychotherapist, and we are going to work out these second-hand driver issues RIGHT NOW.”
This led us into a wonderfully frivolous conversation on how we perceive our driving abilities vs. those around us and evolved into a discussion on drivers, in general. Jokingly, Clayton outlined to me the internal hierarchy of factors he applied to other drivers, based on “normal” people, sobriety, and finally age as highest-to-lowest levels of driving ability.
Then I was like, “Yeah, so if I’m at the top, why do you freak out so much when I drive?”
With a cute little smirk, he corrected that no, I misunderstood. That pyramid, was actually based on gender. So you had the male versions of those drivers at the top, and underneath all of those, you had the female equivalents. And THAT pyramid was very much organized in decreasing order.
Smelling a blog post in the air, I tried visualizing how that pyramid would look. But when I added in the gender segregation, I realized it was less of a pyramid and more of a Christmas Tree. After much discussion, we came up with Clayton’s Christmas Tree Hierarchy of Driving:
This comprised 96% of our time driving in to work.
And after all that chatter, he finally come to the conclusion that his issue had nothing to do with his Christmas Tree. His issue was really just being a passenger. In any capacity, regardless of the driver. He just didn’t like the fact that he was putting his life in someone else’s hands.
At this point, I felt like we were on the verge of a breakthrough. So I very gently pointed out to him “You, my sweet angel face, are a control freak.”
Which made us realize the Christmas Tree still wasn’t quite accurate. Hence:
And, lo, Clayton did declare the Christmas Tree Hierarchy to be perfect. And sent disciples into the far reaches of the world to disseminate this information, for the driving edification of all.
P.S. As we were discussing this, literally at the point we realized Clayton was the paradigm of the driving world that should be fanatically followed by all others, I got cut off by a guy in a silver SUV. Now, about two minutes prior to getting cut off, we were coming off an exit ramp from the highway and I kinda squeezed in front of this fellow. Mind you, I did not cut him off…I had my turn signal on. This, as we know, means you are politely informing someone that you’re coming over so they better make room.
But apparently this guy never went to driving school, so he didn’t know—he just thought I cut him off. So he swerved around me, not to avoid a collision (because we weren’t close enough for that risk), but so that he could zoom around me, cut ME off, and then put on his brakes. (Thankfully, I invented that A-hole Zoom Around Move, so I saw it coming and backed off so there was no wreck.)
Instead, as soon as we realized what he did, Clayton and I immediately burst out laughing. Like, big, open-mouthed guffaws of laughter. It was like the ugly cry of laughing. I saw SUV Guy tilt his head up and check his rearview mirror to see our reactions, and apparently he wasn’t happy that we WERE. So he started slowing down. A lot. And Clayton and I were nearly crying with laughter because the irony of it all seemed so very, very hilarious. And that made SUV Guy angrier.
He turned the corner (because we were all in the turn lane to make a right at an intersection), waited until we’d just cleared the turn and were directly behind him (and couldn’t get out of the way), and slammed on his brakes to make a U-turn right in front of us, in front of on-coming traffic. One big middle-finger of a driving gesture, apparently. Because I was wary of this guy, there was (again) no wreck nor any slamming on of brakes nor gnashing of teeth. At least not ours.
WE were too busy howling with laughter to gnash our teeth. Sure that he made his point, SUV Guy gave us what was probably his best I-Hope-You-Learned-Your-Lesson glare and proceeded to finish making his U-turn so he could go the direction he’d originally intended to and deliberately avoided so he could mess with us. This guy was actually pissed off enough to take three minutes out of his day to try and ruin ours.
Naturally, this meant we had to revise our diagram again:
Clayton gave his permission for all to use this diagram, maybe print it off and tape it to your car’s dashboard in case you need a reminder of where you stand in the pecking order of driving? He also gave permission for you to slightly modify the diagram so that “Guy in the silver SUV” could be replaced with some other, more deserving example of particularly skillful driving. The kind that’s worse than very old or very young women. (Which Clayton kinda contradicts himself by admitting that really isn’t possible, because NOTHING is worse than a really old or really young female driver. Ass.)