California breeds a special kind of driver. Arising from the constant car congestion of urban centers to the fourteen lanes across freeways in the state, California drivers acquire certain characteristics for the road. Let me describe the most notable ones.
Let there be a mere car-length space between vehicles on a California freeway and a driver will squeeze his vehicle into it. This is a common occurrence when changing lanes. Those who remain in lane and are aware of this practice tend to tailgate the car in front such that the car on the side can’t get in. The car on the side squeezes in anyway.
This is the driver with the fancy, fiercely horsepowered, exotic car who wants to strut his stuff by engine revs producing megadecibal blasts from the exhaust. Speed step aside; sheer power manifests while standing still. Savvy Californians make this driver’s day by admitting they could hear him coming from a mile away.
Red and green lights regulate freeway traffic during rush hour. A green light allows two cars to enter. That’s the theory. In fact, car number two gets through the green only when the pedal is to the metal and goes from zero to sixty in 4.3. It makes dragsters out of ordinary drivers.
California drivers use directional signals about 40% of the time. The infrequent usage must arise from the omnipresence of obvious turn lanes and multiple HOV lanes from which there is no escape. Signaling a turn is a blatant redundance. The occasional signaler, however, earns the same respect as a man-eating cougar loose in the city. The signal signals others to get the heck out of the way.
Then, there’s the driver who has nowhere to go, at least not in a hurry. Such drivers are marked by sun-bleached Hondas, the VW bus headed for surf, or ancient autos without navigation. With abundant unemployment benefits, welfare, and warm weather, some Californians could not care less about getting somewhere else quickly.
A place not to be is driving is behind a gardener’s pickup. Rakes, shovels, and brooms are the stalwart soldiers that wobble in racks in the back. Central are piled-high palm fronds, garden clippings, fertilizer, mulch, potted plants, and dead or decaying ground refuse. Far be it for any of these to come flying out to pierce front-forward parts of the following car. Heaven forbid it should be you, because Californians have learned to stay back.
It would be overstatement to say that Ferraris are common in California. Uncommon would be downright wrong. Californians love the exotic Italian brand that draws oohs , ahs, and unstoppable smiles from onlookers sighting a not-so-infrequent Ferrari on the road. It makes people happy. Videos roll and cellphone cameras click. Thumbs up and high-fives greet a Ferrari everywhere. To drive one is a California driver’s most driving ambition.