Issue 9 Contents


Commuters Notebook Or Exercises in Road Rage Or How I Spent My Vacationless Summer

In the last issue of Whatever I reviewed good commuting music. It was kind of a lame story, but it helped my road rage go away for a few weeks. For this issue I wanted to do an experiment and flip all sorts of people the finger to see what their reaction would be. That didn't turn out to be the best idea, so I had to find another way to document my commmuting hell.
When I started, I wanted to bring a video camera and upload short clips to the web site for you to check out. I tried keeping the video camera ready by my side for few days, but it was impossible to capture what was going on and still drive. I hate people who talk on the phone and drive, so trying to take video seemed just as stupid.
I decided that instead or trying to get video of people zipping lane to lane, or people driving 35 mph in the passing lane, that I would take still photos of all the junk that backs up traffic. I mean if I have to sit for 45 minutes because some idiot flipped their car into the median, well I should be able to take a photo. Technically I'm a member of the press, so I'm not even rubbernecking, I'm working.
I went out and bought a tiny Olympus mini camera with a 2.8 lens on it. It looks like a cell phone so I can smuggle it into concerts pretty easily. The 2.8 lens lets me use 1600 speed film for fast shooting.

It has no telephoto lens so what you see it what you get. I wanted something small for Woodstock, and future mosh pits. It turns out that the little Olympus fits nice on my dashboard for drive-by shootings. Let's start with my hometown. Last summer Barrington, RI decided to redo the main strip through town. Townspeople were forced to seek alternative routes, or drive on horrendous streets in huge backups. I chose to drive through the back roads to get to Route 114 instead of going through town. I don't have any accident photos, but here's a nice one of what the main strip looked like for a few weeks during early summer. Lizzy calls it downtown Beruit.

Post Memorial Day is always a nice time for commuters in the Providence area. Lots of people start taking vacations so the roads are not as full. The down side of summer is that the road construction workers are out in full force from spring through fall. This summer Route 95 was again under heavy construction.

Construction delays really suck. There is nothing worse than sitting for 45 minutes to find out you were waiting because there is only one lane open.

So my whole commute is under construction throughout the summer, while the winters are full of dark mornings and evenings. I can do nothing except try not to freak out every day while I sit in the metal coffin waiting for my turn to die. There is at least one good accident each day between Boston and Providence. Sometimes I get lucky and actually get to see the mashed up steal. What follows is the best of my summer accident photos. I was going to also include winter photos, but it turns out that you can't take photos in the dark with the mini-Olympus.

June 14th. Going into work and hitting traffic doesn't bother me as much as when I'm going home and things back up. This particular morning it took more than 2 hours to get to work. There was a nice four or five car bang up in the fast lane around Attleboro that I managed to capture. Here's two photos: one of a VW Bug that hit a van, and one of a Jetta that nailed a truck.

The bug has the most damage. The van and the truck look like they were both rear-ended, but they don't have much damage. There were plenty of cops and fire guys around to make sure nothing exploded. Nothing exciting about this one.

June 16th. A nice night for a drive. It as hot and as usual I changed into a pair of shorts and ditched the Doc's for illegal barefoot driving. According to my records it took over two hours for me to get home. Why? The upside-down car in the median. This was a nice one. Positioned so that rubberneckers going north or south could slow to check it out. You can see it was so nice I also ditched my shirt. That skinny arm in the rearview mirror is mine.

June 30th. Another multi-car accident in the fast lane. This accident was nasty. It happened in a construction zone so the cops had to close the lane for a great distance before the accident to keep people from getting trapped behind it. They closed the middle lane as well.

You can see in the photo that there are concrete barriers between me and the accident, it's because of the construction. I was inching along, and I mean inching when I finally got to this accident. I took a photo and a cop started yelling for me to keep moving. I moved up two feet and took another photo. He kept yelling, so I put the camera away and cranked Rage Against the Machine.

The worst morning was the day some poor sap drove his truck into the woods. You could see the upside down truck from the highway and it caused a delay of about an hour. I sat hoping to see some blood, but once again there was nothing but rubbernecking going on. It was so bad that when I finally got to the 'scene' and discovered that there were no cops, no bleeding people, no nothing except an empty truck upside-down about 30 feet from the road, that I got out of my car to walk over and take some photos.

August had some nice delays, but nothing worth a photo. It was mostly construction crap, and accidents I never saw that kept me from an easy ride. I kept going by cranking the Donnas new CD, and whatever else I had that was new. I did get caught in some construction where the road went from three lanes to one.

I was so lucky I got to watch the truck with the cones actually shut down the lanes. Here is a photo of the cone guy putting cones on the highway while I wonder why the fuck they chose 8:00am to start.

September is back-to-school month and parents celebrate by driving into each other. With summer over and nothing but another long dark winter in front of them, I guess some people would rather end it all on the highway than keep up the drudgery. September 13th is my favorite photo of all I used for this story, It is the one of the guy sucking on a butt next to the pile of twisted metal he used to call his car. It's a well-framed photo for a drive by, so appreciate the art, please.

There have been plenty of two-hour commutes because of overturned semis, and nasty multi-car accidents. I managed to catch a nice red car all banged up early in November, but its kinda fuzzy. Since I can't take too many photos in the dark I've decided to jazz up the drive by making the ride as luxurious as possible.

Gas prices are out of control, so I couldn't go out and get a luxury van or anything. I had to keep the Honda and customize it to my personal preferences.

The most important feature of any commuter coffin is the seat. Mine was nice, but not great. I tried some of those cabbie beaded covers that are supposed to massage you while you drive, but they weren't so special. They are a bitch to sweat on in the summer, and tend to poke at my skinny butt. I moved to sheepskin with some lower back support included. This proved to be fine for the winter, but a bitch in the warm weather. The only solution is to go seasonal, sheepskin with back support in the winter, padded terry cloth in the summer.

If its going to take a few hours to get from A to B, why not have some tasty snacks and beverages to help pass the time in a civilized way? My car has one of those huge cup holders, the kind that will hold a Big Gulp if it has to. By keeping a cozie in the car at all times, all I need is a fresh beverage before I get in the car.

Water in a big glass is nice, but sometimes so is a soda. It seemed that no matter what I wanted I was always looking for something else. Then it hit me, the back seat in my car has been sat in like six times total. Why not utilize the maximum space? A small cooler was added. With just two of those blue goo-filled cooler inserts I can keep beverages cold for an indefinite amount of time. When I get to work or home I just take one in with me and chill it up until I have to leave for the other. It works out awesome. In the winter the cooler keeps drinks from freezing and I barely have to keep the blue goo inserts circulating. I keep a nice selection of Coke, water, Ice Tea and juice on hand.

One word here about booze. We'd all love to be able to crack open a nice cold bottle of Bud, or have a nice glass of wine while inching our way back to our 30 year mortgage, but in these times of the politically correct that sort of thing is really taboo. My grandparents are the kind of people who used to take a nice slow drive to Florida with the makings of a nice cocktail hour in the car. On the road, or at the hotel they had the mixings for Manhattans as well as some crackers, cheese, and summer sausage. They weren't drunk drivers, and neither are you if you only have one.

To go with my selection of drinks I keep some basic snacks in my car as well. Behind the passenger seat is one of the larger size lunch carriers. It's the big square one with the zipper top. It holds some pretzels, Twizzlers, a big bag of M&Ms, and a Pringles tube.

I throw in some individually wrapped cookies or other treats once and a while, and keep some Lifesavers and hard candy in the glove box. I haven't moved up to actually getting a car microwave and trying some mobile popcorn or burritos, but I might. So far my menu has been fine. The key is to mix it up a bit, and don't try to eat things that will crumble, or are filled with drippy sauces or jellies.

My Honda had the basic gray dash, a gray steering wheel and gray everything. I covered the seats like I mentioned above, but the dash needed work. The most essential part of the dash are the air bag and the vents for heat and AC. It you don't block the operation of those you can do anything you want to the rest of it. First I got some cool figurines. Buddha, St Christopher, Darth Maul, and Spiderman all made the cut. I glued some of then down, like Buddha and St Christopher, but the rest are sitting stuck into the various cracks and vents. New McDonalds or Burger King toys get some time up there, but then get thrown out the window. I used to wonder about those old people with the nodding dogs in the back, but I get it now. Try gluing a Troll to your hood ornament. You'll be amazed. No matter what, that little bastard will keep both hands outstretched with a big smile. If you feel tougher try Taz or one of McFarland's figures. I glued Gene Simmons to the bumper and had a blast watching people almost drive off the road trying to get a good look.

Try mixing figures with stickers, buttons, whatever. The possibilities for interior decoration are endless. I've got a steering wheel cover, a button collection stuck to the ceiling, and stuff glued onto every gray plastic surface the vehicle came with.

It probably won't do much for the resale value, but who gives a shit? I'm going to be stuck paying for cars forever so why not make them into cars I like? I always drive a car into the ground and push it into the dealer anyway, what are some figurines gonna matter? My Pokemon Burger King toys that are glued to the back window will be worth more than the car when I sell it. It's a wonderful realization to embrace, so go ahead, and glue something you like to your dash.

Overall these changes have made my ride much more comfortable. They haven't made commuting any easier by any means. Each day I still have to make sure not to piss anybody off, or get pissed off at anybody. These days looking at somebody wrong is enough to get you killed, so why bother? It all came down to realizing that I could die. Who wants to die for their job? Not me. I'm not going out like some chump.

I'd be able to give you a website address where you can enter in the license plate of moronic drivers you encounter. I've seen some people are starting to list license plates and offenses on the internet to help warn others about insane drivers. Look up Road Rage and you'll find them. I'll list the best next issue and maybe start a list of my own.