Bob vs. Tailgaters
Bust Bob's Chops

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© 1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

Sour lemons bob in water. Sour Bob just sinks.
On May 11, 1999, Bob Levey said:

"If that... is a bit bulky to fit on a bumper sticker, perhaps we could try... 'I brake if tailgated.' "

Communication between drivers is probably one of the more interesting challenges facing Americans in the 20th century. How to keep thousands of cars, each hurtling along with its own important mission, from bonking into each other?

For years we relied on hand gestures and shouting. This worked fine in the era of cars with low speeds and no windows. But, over time, cars got faster and windows more common.

That's when someone invented the Turn Signal, an invention gone largely unused to this day. But that is another matter.

No, most people still rely on hand gestures (usually rude), eye contact (often domineering), shouting even though one cannot be heard (definitely inappropriate), and sheer vehicular inertia to get a message across. But some people are above all this. These people strive to rise above the common masses and communicate to their fellow man with eloquence and wit. These people use...

Bumper stickers.

Yes. Bumper stickers are the first weapon of choice for the self-righteous indignant. Bumper stickers are used to display the scholastic aptitude of their offspring; to promote political candidates, parties, and line-item campaigns of several past elections; to teach eager fourth- graders new one-syllable words; to advertise the vehicle's place of purchase; and, the best of all, to instruct the Great Unwashed some valuable lesson that can be summed up in five inches of sticker.

All of these bumper stickers are fully deserving of generous heapings of derision. But the capital offender is without a doubt the instructor.

Look at the instructor's bumper sticker. From the outset, he is assuming that you are an idiot. If he thought you had a grain of intelligence, he would not waste your time with such drivel. You, in his eyes, are a stupid person with no attention span. But his bumper sticker will Save You.

You, apparently, will suddenly realize the error of your ways. You will correct yourself at once. You will go to Jesus. You will brake for small animals. You always wondered, but now understand without a doubt, that meat is dead.

You will quit tailgating.

Isn't that the best one of them all? Here's a person who puts small words on the back bumper, for Pete's sake, obviously wanting you to read their Important Message so they can Save You. We're all curious by nature, so naturally we move in close enough to actually read the bumper sticker, and what does it say? It says that the driver is willing to deliberately cause a collision at high speeds just to make a point!!

Yaaah!! The sensible thing to do is stay as far away from this person as possible because they are clearly insane. It would even be reasonable to call the police, as the perpetrator is clearly deliberately antagonizing other drivers. This is a very aggressive person driving here. We can all see where this is going: the victim becomes the assailant.

But most of us will not have that reaction. Most of us will shrug and dismiss it as just another self-righteous moron who thinks he's God's gift to the Beltway. Some of us will take it as a personal challenge and tailgate as closely as possible, just to bug 'em. None of us are going to say, "gee whiz, all this time... I'm so sorry, I'll keep a proper distance from now on."

This is especially true on the Capital Beltway which is so hopelessly clogged with traffic that maintaining proper following distance is literally impossible for most of the day. That's just life in the Big City. And if ya can't run with the big dogs....

In the case of the truly dangerous tailgaters, there are a few things that probably won't help resolve the situation:

  • Distract him with a stupid bumper sticker that will only piss him off anyway.
  • Slam on the brakes while he is reading your bumper sticker, to Save Him.

Both parties already hate each other. How will it help the situation to deliberately cause a collision, regardless of whose "fault" it legally is? Legal fault sounds great behind the wheel of a car but is less appealing from the inside of an emergency room. Better, much better, to just get out of the way by moving one lane to the right. Odds are, anyone who falls in the instructor category is probably too far to the left anyway.

Or, heck, just wait a moment. Odds are, if the tailgater is that impatient, he'll just pass in a huff within a few seconds.

Live and let live. Forget about it and carry on. But leave the obnoxious bumper sticker at the trinket store where it belongs.