I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck that if you live in North America, you would consider this a great insult. South of the border, maybe not so much. In many European countries they would probably take it as a compliment. The scary part of this is that you don’t even have to say it — your companion can infer this simply by your facial expression or a sudden movement.
According to Dave Barry (remember him?) “The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background is that deep down inside we all believe that we are above-average drivers.” You’re a good driver, aren’t you? So am I.
I was very fortunate that on the day I got my “learner’s permit” when I turned 15-1/2 years old, my dad commenced to teach me the fine art of driving. I sat behind the wheel of the old Studebaker in the driveway and dad said, “I want you to watch your rearview mirrors — the inside and the outside — and tell me when you can no longer see me.” He walked behind the car and just a bit to the side and then slowly started forward. I watched like a hawk — he wasn’t getting past me! And suddenly, he wasn’t there.
“Wait! Where did you go?” I turned around and he was standing several feet behind and just to the side.
“This is your blind spot,” he told me.
I looked in both mirrors again — how could someone just disappear like that? And to this day after more than half a century of driving, I still find it mysterious.
“Is there one on the other side?” Dad walked to the other side of the car and repeated the experiment.
“Well, I’ll be darned!”
“There are blind spots on both sides, so you have to be very careful when you change lanes. Always glance over your shoulder. But remember, at 60 miles an hour you’re traveling at 66 feet per second, so it’s just a quick glance. A lot can happen in a second or two. And another thing,” he added as I pondered the mystery, “never linger in someone’s blind spot. Always make sure they can see you in their mirror.”
This was the first of many lessons that included parallel parking (there’s a trick that lets you do it in one swing), passing on a two-lane road (which becomes relevant when driving to Paso Robles and being stuck behind an 18-wheeler), driving at night (never look at the oncoming car’s headlights, especially if they have them on high), freeway driving (always look as far ahead as you can. When you see brakes lights up ahead, take your foot off the gas), never stay behind someone you can’t see past, and many more defensive driving techniques before anybody ever heard of defensive driving. I think over the years, most people pick this up as they go along. I was happy to learn all that before I ever started driving.
“Another thing,” my dad said as we were driving on the Hollywood Freeway Sunday morning on the way to church (NO traffic!), “if cars are passing you on the right, you’re going too slow. You need to move over to the right lane.”
So, yeah, I think I’m a good driver, but I have to admit — I am a terrible backseat driver! Sometimes I blurt out a concern (forgive me, friends!). But here’s something about backseat drivers — my dad never minded. In fact, he said, “Four eyes are better than two. I’d rather be told than not see something.” Of course this doesn’t apply to Aunt Neely who gasped every time she saw someone on a bike or a car approaching an intersection.
And, sadly, I know I’m not always doing it right. For instance, when I learned to drive, the rule of thumb was to keep one car length between you and the car ahead for every 10 mph — so at 60 mph, there should be 6 car lengths between you and the other guy. There were a lot less cars on the road back in the middle of the last century and that rule has since changed to 2 seconds between cars. I am not comfortable with that, but I try; I really do.
Also, although I hate to admit this, my reflexes aren’t what they were back then. Changing lanes sometimes gives me pause. I like to drive in the far left lane because it is the safest lane. Some people think the right “slow” lane is safer, but it is constantly in flux with cars entering the freeway from the right and pulling in from the left to make their exit. In the left lane, you only have to be aware of cars coming in from the right. Safer.
I thank my dad all the time when I’m driving — things like “never brake on a curve,” “don’t look at your passengers when you’re talking — watch the road.” He summed it all up nicely when he told me, “it would be okay if you only had to drive your own car, but you have to drive all the other cars on the road, too.”
I’ve since amended that to, “all the other drivers are idiots.” Maybe not very nice, but it keeps me on my toes.
So, the greatest insult? You’ve already guessed, of course. It’s implying, suggesting or even (gasp!) downright saying that someone is not a good driver. If you do this, might I suggest you wait until you’re home … otherwise, you might be in for a very long walk.