Street safari

I turned into a Boston Driver after two years. The title is not to be admired. You generally do not earn this label. Rather, you evolve into the motorist sub-species in a rather nerve tingling indoctrination. Boston drivers are a different breed of insanity. I never imagined I would survive in city traffic. I expected to be sideswiped, throw down my keys in resignation, and run for the hills. But I adapted as best I could, and in doing so found a wonderful way to analyze the high-velocity motorists in my general vicinity. You have to treat Boston drivers like safari animals. Each creature has a particular personality, certain habits, subtle or obvious traits. To understand the creature is to drive with the creature. Allow me to explain.

The elephant. Ah, the mighty pachyderm. Look for dump trucks, cement mixers, flatbeds, and tractor-trailers. Generally occupied by hard laborers with little desire to merge their giant vehicles into a river of steel. But don’t mess with the elephant. Everyone knows that. Don’t even get close. Give them plenty of room. And never presume that you can sneak into a lane, right in front of their cab. They may be in low gear but have no desire to crunch on your bumper.

The meerkat. Scooter-tribal-urban-trend-setter. You do realize you have to drive that in public, don’t you? Some are kind enough to follow state laws and drive with you, not around you. Many are delighted to zip between lanes, using the white dashes as their ticket to freedom. Pray you don’t slam into an open door or a broad-rimmed mirror. Good thing you bought a helmet.

The cheetah. Very lovely and pricey sports car. Cheetahs only show their speed when they have the room. Look out for Corvettes with a football field of lane in front of them. When the light turns green, they’re vapor on your windshield.

The hyena. Heckling, noisy, obnoxious woofer-powered cars. They assume many forms. Look for a pro-shop Honda Civic or an underachieving VW Golf. One day, their drivers will leave Mass Eye & Ear with newly installed hearing aids.

The baboon. Taxis of all configurations. The most unpredictable of all the species. Plan for the cabbie to pull the unexpected, and the unexpected he will pull. Yes, that cab is fully capable of driving across three lanes of traffic. Yes, that cabbie will do a U-turn in a street that seems physically impossible to permit the maneuver. Yes, a cabbie will stop almost anywhere without notice. Yes, a taxi on your right side will turn onto that left street. . . by going around in front of you. Fearless daredevils, or oblivious motorists? You be the judge.

The rhinoceros. No one wants to get near the horn. In this case, a contractor’s F350 adorned with a cargo frame in the bed and a multitude of ladders. They park almost anywhere, thanks to commercial plates. Look for them at the watering hole early in the morning. They will vacate the jungle by 3:30 p.m.

The hippo. Lumbering Econolines in decorative livery. They shuttle to and fro, orbiting the city to find their way to hospitals, hotels, and airport terminals. Their operators are generally courteous, having a well rehearsed route and no intent to break municipal traffic rules. (Possible explanation:  the enormous cup holders on their consoles. There may be a correlation between the capacity of coffee cup holders and the safety record of commercial drivers. Further study is warranted.)

The puma. Beware the most dangerous and unpredictable of motor-creatures:  the BMW. Luxury coupes owned by junior executives. (Should I still drive like I’m in college, or act like an adult saving up for retirement?) One ear of the driver is consistently glued to a cellular phone. Half of their brain devoted to anything but road rules. Look for lane changes without directionals (a lost art, to be sure) and unexpected bursts in speed. Running reds? The Beemer is king of the trade. Oddly enough, you never see a damaged Beemer. I suspect they have a way of passing the damage on to others.


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