Sunday, April 13, 2008

On the Road (or this is not what Jack Kerouac had in mind, I'm sure)

It is one of my personal points of pride that I have not, even once, flipped my fellow drivers The Bird or The Finger (is there a difference?) or cursed at anyone ever in my entire adult driving career. Yes. Now, mind you, this doesn't mean that I haven't thought about it. Oh baby, I've thought about it. I've felt road rage like you wouldn't believe. It's just that I think it's part of the constant, ongoing work that I need to do on myself not to express it. Now, I will lean on the horn, or shout "what the hell are you doing?" or say other similarly critical things. But I draw the line at obscenities. I know. I am a rock star.

A good portion of my family lives in Flatbush. For the uninitiated, driving in Brooklyn is, well, not for the timid. Something happens when frum Jews get behind a wheel. Like the famous Midrash of the magical moment before a baby is born, an angel comes and taps them on the upper lip, and they forget all the Torah they have learned. Once they are behind that wheel, menschlachkeit, good middos, kavod habriyos, and just plain old decency and respect for other human beings alights from their spirits. It is amazing, just amazing, how cutting other people off, double- or triple-parking, snagging parking spots, holding up traffic, etc. is considered part of fair driving behavior. Lane markers are suggestions; stop signs are an indication to slow down a little; turning signals apparently don't operate in Brooklyn. And then of course there are the pedestrians....walking in the middle of the street, stepping out in front of cars, stopping traffic. Oh yeah. You get it from every side.

My friends and I have officially designated Coney Island Avenue as the EID Roadway: The Effing Idiot Drivers main drag. Of course, some of my less restrained friends call it FID, which of course, stands for Flipping Idiot Drivers. Driving down this particular road is like riding on the little silver ball inside a giant pinball machine. Look out, here comes a flipper! Bing bing bing, Ricochet Rabbit! The inside lane is, of course, not drivable, because it is the unspoken but official double-park lane. At least every third car is double-parked on Coney Island Avenue. It is simply amazing.

Flatbush is a shopping mecca. It is a veritable Eden of bargains. You cannot buy a glatt kosher brisket cheaper anywhere in the world. You cannot find a Shabbos hot-pot cheaper. You cannot find a new sefer cheaper. But there is no parking. There is maybe one legal spot to every dozen shoppers, literally. And the stores are crowded together, so as to maximize the shopping potential. It is time to pave Paradise and put up a parking lot.

Today, I offered to drive my Mom and sister-in-law around to take care of last minute Passover shopping. It was like driving through soup. Dangerous, rude soup. I silently prayed my car and our lives would emerge unscathed. My sister-in-law rolled down the window and yelled things like "Did you learn how to cut people off in Yeshiva?" and "did you leave your middos in Beis Medrash?" Gotta love the sister-in-law. She's the real thing. She cracks me up.

And now, safely back at home in a slightly more civilized part of NY, I have a raging headache. And I have to fill up my car for tomorrow's adventures.

Why am I doing this?

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