My uncle Bod claims that Terlingua County, where he lives, has the worst drivers in Texas. I can’t help but disagree with him, insisting that the drivers in the Rio Grande Valley are much worse. Not that I think drivers here are worse, but old Bod is one of those Texans who not only insists that everything in Texas is bigger, better, taller, or in this case, badder, but that his own little corner of Texas has a monopoly on superlatives compared to the rest of the state. And it does my heart good to see him sputter and squirm as I smugly refuse to listen to him
Actually, I think the drivers in the Rio Grande Valley are pretty darned good. Sure, when the Winter Texans finally flock down here I’m prone to honk my horn when one of them decides to take his afternoon nap while waiting for the light to turn green, and 30 cars or so pull around him before he finally wakes up and rabbit jumps across the intersection just as the light turns yellow, leaving me stuck at the light. And there’s a soccer mom in our neighborhood who drives a Hummer and takes three lanes of traffic to make a right turn.
High school kids who’ve watched too many “Fast and Furious” movies? Sure. I shake my head as they zip past, slam on the brakes at the red light, then don’t notice when it turns green because they’re on their cell phone.
If you think the drivers here are bad, take a weekend jaunt to Dallas or Houston. Drive the speed limit on the freeway. The drivers around you seem to think the posted speed limits are the opening bids in an auction: “Sixty-five? Do I hear Seventy? Seventy, do I hear Eighty? Eighty! Eighty going once, going twice. Gone.” And off they go, racing to see who can get to the video store first to pick up the last copy of “Fast and Furious” on DVD. Give me 83 any time, even when the “Fines Doubled When Workers Present” are up and there are three guys out there propping themselves up with their shovels while they smoke cigarettes: your stimulus money in action.
Comparatively, Valley drivers aren’t that bad, though I wouldn’t let Bod know that. And I do have one complaint against them: almost to a person, they ignore school zones. (You know who you are.) Every school day, I drive past an elementary school. As soon as I come to that flashing orange light I slow down to twenty. And I feel like I’m in a bumper car version of a Dallas freeway. Cars are zipping past me at thirty five. Drivers are giving me quizzical looks. Can’t I see that there isn’t a single child actually walking to school? There hasn’t been one spotted the whole school year. In the whole Rio Grande Valley there may be three fourth graders in Le Feria who still walk to school; the rest are driven by mom or dad, even when school is across the street.
I know all that. I used to drive my kids to school. Which is why I still slow down to twenty. Call me sentimental. Somehow, slowing down, if only for the 20 seconds it takes to get through a school zone, is like sending a message out to the universe. I care about my kids. They’re out there on 83. Maybe they’re driving like they think they’re in “Fast and Furious.” Cuss them out if you want. But watch out for them. I care about your kids. I’m going to slow down to 20 in a school zone to affirm that.
Let’s both be sentimental. Maybe the car stalled in front of us at the red light is someone’s kid. Maybe he just got his learner’s permit yesterday. Maybe he could use a chuckle and a wave instead of the horn. Maybe in year or too he’ll slow down to 20 in a school zone for your kids.