Several months back, my wife got a new job. Because of the long commute into the city, she was worried her standard transmission car might only add to the frustrations that hours of stop-and-go traffic would already have. Also, she wanted to maintain the professional/corporate appearance that her position demanded, and her car might give people the wrong impression. Because of this, we decided that it would be best if she were to take my respectable, steel-gray, 4-door automatic sedan, and I would drive her Honda Prelude.
Little back story: A few years ago, the Prelude’s red paint had faded to a mottled pink, and the headlights were so scratched and milky that they looked terrible. Since Honda had stopped making Preludes, she decided to fix hers up and keep it. And if you’re already going to pay a guy who operates his shady auto-painting business out of a storage lot, might as well tell him to go for it, and paint the car the way you’ve always dreamed. Several weeks, and a few hundred bucks later, she had this:
Not the car you want if you wish to avoid attention
Obviously, the transition from driving an economical family sedan to Fast & Furious had a bit of a learning curve for me. For one, I’m six feet tall. Folding myself into the cockpit required a little getting used to. Another, the stereo is way way more stereo than I’ve ever owned. It can really make you feel like you’re actually INSIDE the audio book. Also, the cup-holder was designed by a team of coffee-hating engineers who laughingly placed it directly behind the stick shift, which isn’t an issue if you’re Mister Fantastic, but for those of us with elbows, it really ups the risk of spilling scalding coffee by 30,000%. And while I knew that I’d be getting a lot of unwanted attention driving a flashy car, I really didn’t understand how much attention I would get.
3: The Police Will Profile You
This one is easy. Of course police are going to pay attention to a car painted like that. Obviously such a car is driven by a crazed street racer with a death-wish, and a duffel-bag full of guns, cocaine, and stolen diamonds. This person is a troublemaker. They must be stopped.
This I expected. What I hadn’t expected was the extent that the police go to.
A week or so after she got it painted, my wife was pulled over. The crime? Failure to Use a Turn Signal 100 Feet Before a Lane Change. Now, notice that’s not failure to use a turn signal. She did signal. And while 100 feet on an open freeway isn’t very long, 100 feet in a residential neighborhood is quite a distance. The officer was a bit confused to find a 30-something business woman behind the wheel, and after a thorough interrogation, which included asking her three times if this really was her car, he gave her a warning.
“Excuse me, ma’am your street cred isn’t high enough for this ride.
I’m going to need you to step out of the vehicle”
Now everyone’s been pulled over on a BS charge before, but not everyone has a Presidential-style police motorcade when they’re going to the grocery store.
I’ve been followed from one side of our city to to other. I’ve even been traded off between tailing police cars when one relieves the other of whatever escort service that I can only assume they are providing. I’ve always been a safe driver, now I make very sure that I always use a signal (especially 100 feet before changing lanes), stay under the posted limit, stop entirely at signs, and also smile at them when they pull up beside me, allowing them a good view of what a non-hooligan I am. Eventually the local PD have figured out that I’m not a threat. The same can not be said for other drivers.
2: Other Drivers Will Try to Kill You.
Police aren’t the only ones that profile you based off your car. If you’re driving a BMW, they assume you’re rich. If you’re driving a 1994 Civic with an off-colored door, they assume you can’t go above 43mph. If you’re driving a hot-rod, they assume you’re some punk in need of a beat-down. Based solely off my car, other drivers assume that I’m the guy that steals the lunch money from good boys and the virtue of innocent girls. I have become the embodiment of every school bully anyone has ever endured, and now, they want payback.
One of my first encounters with this phenomenon was when a pickup truck tried very hard to run me into a concrete median. I can’t express this enough, some dude actually attempted to murder me for no reason other than my car’s paint job.
Most of the time it’s a lot more subtle. I get cut off constantly while driving it. Now, I know I’m driving safe (my police escort can attest), but other drivers will become the most insane assholes around my car in some sort of preemptive strike against the shitty driving that they expect from me. Every car speeds up as they near in order to pass me. They refuse to let me lane change. They swerve and frenzy around my car in some ecstasy of chaos.
A standard day’s commute
Now, I know this isn’t just me. Several weeks ago, I watched a Lamborghini driving down the road, minding its own business, and being as safe and cautious as you might expect from someone driving around in a half-million dollar car. He was just a guy driving. Then this pack of cars comes up on him and that’s when shit got real. I saw soccer moms in 4-cylinder minivans pound the gas then swerve in front of Mr. Half-Million Dollar Car with no blinker, and then, just for grins (and because they came out of their craze long enough to realize that they were going 85 in a minivan with half-an-inch clearance between them and the car in front of them), they slammed their brakes.
Strangely enough, the police don’t seem to notice when other drivers go insane like this. I assume it’s because their attention is so focused on the suspect vehicle, either that or they simply agree that death by mob-justice is the only true law of the road.
Ultimately, all this leads to…
1: In Order to Survive, You Become What They Want You To Be
If self-help and child-raising books have taught us one thing, it’s that people will become the product of their environment. But what if that environment isn’t nurturing love, and affirmation that one day you will be an astronaut, but instead that you’re a balls-out madman road warrior? There’s only so much police tailing and motorist murder attempts you can take before you just say, “Screw it! You wanna dance? Let’s dance!”
In order to survive, I’ve learned to speed up when drivers near, just to keep them from smashing or herding me. If using a turn-signal causes drivers to block you in, then you learn when not to use a signal. (I admit that I still need to practice my drifting.)
I’ve always been told how people with red cars will drive faster and more aggressively than normal drivers. I don’t know about you, but when I’m inside a car, I can’t see what color it is. I’d assumed that maybe the reason was in the psychology of the person who wanted a red car. Maybe they’re just naturally aggressive jerks and they’re drawn to red vehicles. But now… now I suspect that the reason is because other drivers have forced them into this role.
“You want red… I’ll give you red.”
As I said, I’ve always been a safe driver. In 20 years I’ve had only 1 speeding ticket. I try to be considerate and aware of my surroundings. Buy my life as a defensive driver goes straight to hell when I slide into that car.
You’ve been warned.
Just don’t ask what’s inside the duffel-bag.