Clueless Drivers

AI-generated image of a Buick stopped in the middle of the street
Not the actual Buick described far as you know.

FM 2147 (Farm-to-Market for you city slickers) bisects the town where we live. To get to our neighborhood, you make a turn from 2147 onto a street called Bay West Blvd. That turn puts you immediately on a blind downhill curve, and it’s advisable to be alert to surprises on that curve.

A couple of mornings ago, as I returned home after running some errands, I was reminded of that advice. As I came out of the curve, I was surprised to see a full-sized spare tire and wheel laying smack dab in the middle of the street. I was going only about 20 mph, so I had no trouble slowing to a crawl while I scoped out the situation.

Up ahead, about a half block, an older heavyset man was walking slowly up the hill from a pickup with a flatbed trailer attached, carrying only a zero-turn lawn mower (the trailer, not the man). It was obvious that the tire had somehow escaped from his trailer and had come to rest in a most inopportune location.

I made eye contact with him — he seemed fairly disgusted but not distraught over the situation — and decided that he had things under control. There was room for me to slowly maneuver to the left and around the tire, which I did.

The turn into our neighborhood was just a few yards down the street, and as I approached that intersection, I glanced in the rearview mirror just in time to see a dark-colored sedan — a Buick, I think — come around the blind curve and proceed to drive over the tire, where it lodged directly in the center of the car, under the engine compartment.

The owner of the now-captive tire came to a halt, and, hands on hips, stared at the driver and shook his head in apparent disbelief.

I also shook my head in empathy as I made the turn and the scene disappeared from my mirror. I don’t know how they managed to extricate the tire from the car’s undercarriage…it might have been as simple as putting the car in reverse and backing away. The street was clear when I went out again about an hour later.

I’m still mystified as to how the sedan’s driver could have failed to see and avoid that very obvious obstacle in the middle of the street. Were they distracted by their phone? Did they forget they weren’t in the family Humvee and thought they had the ground clearance to drive over the tire with impunity? Or were they just clueless?

The demographic of our town skews to the high double-digits end of the lifespan spectrum, which makes for some “interesting” (aka terrifying) driver behaviors. And there are way too many drivers of all ages who delude themselves into thinking they can simultaneously stare at their phones and still pilot their two- and three-ton vehicles safely. I know that because Debbie and I often run on Bay West — a wide divided street — and on any given curve, we assess our ability to jump to safety off the road to avoid distracted drivers who are channeling their inner Max Verstappen as they hug the inside curb on a 35-mph speed limit street in an apparent effort to shave precious milliseconds from their five minute trip to the post office. I resist the urge to offer them educational hand signals, feeling that adding antagonism to inattention is not a battle I could win.

Occasionally, a driver will look up just in time to jerk the steering wheel away from us, and give us a shrug and a grin as if to say, silly me…I almost killed you…please accept this shrug and grin as evidence of my contrition, until the next time.

Now that I think about it, clueless is much too kind a word. Perhaps you’ve got a better suggestion.

Update: It occurs to me that I’m probably giving the wrong impression about local drivers as a whole. The majority (I still hesitate to apply vast as an adjective) are considerate and diligent drivers. Many do give us plenty of clearance on the road, slowing down and/or moving over and acknowledging our presence with a friendly wave. As is often the case, it’s a few bad actors that bathe everyone in a bad light.