If he (or she) who is without sin had to cast the first stone, there wouldn't be many stones cast and there certainly wouldn't be many newspaper columns written. All of which is to say that in today's subject, I confess to my share of sins, but I'm not going to let that stand in the way.
The subject is drivers.
Specifically: lousy drivers and rude drivers.
I think the tribe is increasing.
The other morning while I was on my way to work, a car in the left lane was heading down the highway at a cool 45 mph with its left-turn signal flashing brightly just above the Reagan-Bush sticker. There was no place for miles that the driver could turn left, and there hadn't been for miles. Finally, he turned off his left-turn signal. Well, we've all been guilty of leaving signals on too long. Then, he promptly went into the right lane about three feet in front of my car. Without a single flash of his signal. Little surprises like that do wonders to wake you up in the morning.
Then there are the drivers who don't know where they are going or simply prefer to drive slowly -- say 5 or 10 miles below the speed limit. Perhaps they have all the time in the world, but they don't seem to realize that the line of 10 or 20 drivers rapidly gathering behind them do not.
And it is invariably the slow drivers who take a real flyer coming out of sidestreets, wheeling their cars in front of you so closely that you have to slow down to avoid a crash. Then, after this dramatic entrance into the traffic flow, they bring it to a crawl.
Then, too, there are those who prefer life in the fast lane. Even on a two-lane road. Such was the case with the truck that I suddenly spotted in the rear-view mirror the other day as it was bearing down on my rear fender. I suppose I was as annoying to the driver as slow drivers are to me, but there was one crucial difference: I was abiding by the speed limit, and in order not to have this truck run up the back of my car, I was forced to exceed it.
Then there are the drivers who cheat. In Washington we have a lot of them. My favorites are the ones who approach Key Bridge through Georgetown and head out to Virginia. There are two lanes that are clearly marked for turning left from M Street onto the bridge and two lanes clearly marked for going straight toward Canal Road. These two lanes usually move much more rapidly through Georgetown. The cheaters use these lanes all the way to the bridge and at the last minute try to sneak into the left-turn lanes to go across Key Bridge. This, of course, slows those lanes down even more.
You might think that since this goes on every night, a police officer might show up on occasion to enforce the rush-hour traffic rules, but you would be thinking wrong.
Once across Key Bridge, the rush-hour cheaters have to face a line leading to the George Washington Parkway into Virginia. A custom has grown over the years in which drivers already in the left lane of the parkway slow down to allow an orderly merging of cars coming off the ramp from Key Bridge. It's a reassuring bit of civility in an otherwise uncivil rush hour. But not everybody is civil: There are busy people (unlike the rest of us) who have important places to go to (unlike the rest of us), so what they do is get out of the line on the ramp at the first opportunity, drive down the left side of the ramp ahead of the line and dart into the merging traffic at the first opening.
Then there are the lane switchers. These are the folks who go in and out of rush-hour lanes, seeking every little edge they can find to get ahead. The trouble is that half the time they get stuck between two lanes, holding up everybody behind them. With different motivations but the same results are the folks who get themselves in the wrong lane so that they can't make the right (or left) turn they want and who then proceed to hold up everybody behind them until some charitable soul lets them into the desired lane and allows the rest of us to get on with our lives.
Let us not forget the drivers who run yellow lights: Stopping at yellow lights has become all but a vanished tradition. But my personal favorites are the motorists who pose a real challenge to rush hours by driving straight into the middle of an intersection when the traffic ahead of them shows no sign of moving. The light turns and there they are in the middle of the intersection, forcing pedestrians to walk around them and preventing any progress on the part of cars going the other way.
Without folks like these, rush hour might not be what it is.