SMOKE: Driver Types (And How To Spot Them)

Originally published: 6 April 2006

No matter how many times I go driving I'm never anything but stupefied at the sheer blind incompetence of South African drivers. I wish I could get over it but I can't.

It's not just because I drive with my foot flat no matter what the conditions or situation and thus get irritated by slow drivers - I wouldn't mind slow drivers if they simply weren't stupid about it.

I never last much longer than 100 metres on any given road before The Rage begins, inspired by the ineptitude of other drivers. And I promise you this: The Rage is not unjustified. It's perfectly reasonable to get as angry as I do, because being an asshole driver is very different to being an asshole pedestrian - cars can kill. Pedestrians only wish they could.

Many, many years ago I lost count of how many times I've escaped mangled, crushed death by mere millimetres, and I'd be the first to admit if it was caused by me.

It isn't. It wasn't. I drive fast but I'm intelligent about it. I abide religiously by the rules of the road - all of them except for the one about speed limits.

The speed limit laws are merely there to protect the untalented. Fuck the untalented.

Yesterday afternoon I was on my Mowbray Run, seething and stewing behind slowpokes, when I decided to mentally categorise the various driver types on the road.

I've recorded that mental categorisation here, to provide you with a useful tool by which to identify Road Pigs. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

Please note that I don't hate any of them more than the others - my hatred is evenly spread amongst all.

1. The Ditherer

Usually some ditzy chick who was in such a rush she didn't apply makeup or brush her hair before she left home. She spends her entire trip dollying up in her rearview mirror, and so intent is she upon applying the correct hue of Coty Extra-Gloss to her lips she fails to spot the madman behind her, wildly trying to point out that the light changed five minutes ago.

When she suddenly realises everyone else is moving around her she looks up all startled-like (my what a startling thing - a light changing), drops her lipstick on the passenger seat, hits the gas and promptly stalls.

Flustered she tries to start up quickly and lurches forward, letting out the clutch too quickly. She stalls again, then throws up her hands in frustration at the swines hooting behind her. It's all their fault.

I'd like to scalp or de-lip each and every ditherer I see.

2. Nervy Ned

Nervy Ned is the bloke or chick who should never have been given a license in the first place. How they passed their driving exam is far beyond my limited comprehension.

They religiously stick to a minimum of 10km/h under the speed limit, and drive in spurts. When they realise they're going too slowly they up their pace suddenly, then slow right down again when their world starts blurring at the heady pace of 59km/h.

My worst is that they slow down when approaching a green traffic light. I know why - it's in case the light changes just as they get to it.

Imagine living your life in such fear.

3. The Hat

You don't want to get stuck behind a Hat - trust me. Nine times out of 10 the only people wearing hats are octogenarians, either because they're still stuck in 1940's dress code or because they're on their way for a quiet afternoon at the local Lawn Bowls club.

It's ridiculous that drivers in this country simply get a license and never have to retake it. There should be mandatory driver tests once people hit a certain age, because I've yet to see one Golden Oldie who drives decently.

Fortunately Hats are easy to spot because of their hat. Avoid like the plague.

4. The Breeker

This is the oke with tinted shades, tinted windows, mag wheels and a boom box, who drives with only one hand on the wheel with a facial expression cooler than liquid nitrogen.

He thinks he's the beez kneez and seems under the impression that we actually care. We don't, asshole. Get over yourself and stop driving like a tit.

5. The Lost Soul

Spare me, oh spare me. The Lost Soul is the oke or chick who is driving with one hand on the wheel and the other clutching a map or a set of directions.

They slow down at every turn-off that approaches, squinting madly at the street signs to see if they're right, then discover they aren't right and dawdle off to the next intersection with one eye on the road and the other frantically trying to make sense of the garbled rubbish they're reading.

I'm an oke who always knows where I'm going - even when I don't. If I'm lost I don't screw over the people behind me - I make bold turns in blind faith. If I get it wrong I get more lost, but at least I'm not inconveniencing a thousand people behind me.

6. The Family Guy

Balding, he comes complete with wife, kids, dog and gleaming family sedan, painted in sensible colours.

He usually only emerges on Sundays, which is when people have the peculiar and irritating habit of going on "Sunday drives". This regularly causes me to scream in frustration, begging the question of the Family Guy in front of me: "What do you think this is, man? A flipping Sunday afternoon drive?"

It is of course, which does nothing to improve my mood.

You usually catch him winding his way along the road which takes you from Constantia Nek all the way to Hout Bay and beyond, and if you're ever driven that road you'll know that A. you can't pass on it and B. it stretches for endless miles.

If you find yourself behind The Family Guy you're screwed. He's driving along slowly with a Baby On Board sticker (never understood that one - why should I drive any differently simply because you're the one who took your kid out?), and the wife and kids are humouring him by murmuring at all the lovely sights and how beautiful the afternoon looks.

If you get too close to him he empties his windscreen wiper water all over you - "Back, scum, and mind the baby."

Once you hit the open road you scream past him with max revs, glaring like a man possessed by the devil himself.

7. Polite Pam

I'm the sort of bloke who is perfectly polite on the roads, but I don't let it interfere with anyone else's experience, as Polite Pam does.

She'll have right of way but she'll happily wave someone in front of her, thereby making his life easier but inconveniencing many more behind her.

She's determined to do her bit, so casually ignores the fact that she's holding everyone else up in order to give one bastard an opening.

Invariably he can't take it right away as there is traffic in the other lane, so we all sit there vainly waiting for him because Pam wants to be a good person.

You're not a good person, Pam. You're rubbish.

8. The Students

You can always spot them by their car - it's crap. A beat-up jalopy that has no business being on the road, much less being called a car.

It's always packed with mad students fighting desperately to breathe in the smoke-filled, bonged-up hotbox, and is so packed the rear bumper is mere inches off the ground.

They'd be fine if they weren't mad students. But being mad students they believe they can get stoned and still beat the guy next to them, and they almost kill themselves trying.

The drivers tend to have poor vision as they have tears of laughter in their eyes (they are stoned after all), but they gun those jalopies to the max in order to stay ahead of you.

If you've got traffic on either side of you and can't pass them they like rock on, dude, killing themselves laughing at The Suit behind them who needs to like chill out, hey.

9. Mindgames Mike

A dangerous bloke, and one you don't want to meet at 2.30 AM on a Sunday morning while driving home on a moonless night.

Mindgames Mike is usually trying to impress the drunk chick with him and decides to play some mindgames with you. He speeds up when he sees you coming, then slows right down. You have to slow down too, and when you do he speeds up again.

If you try to overtake him he speeds up to your speed, just to keep you in the overtake lane as long as possible, particularly if there's oncoming traffic ahead.

His goal is to keep up so you are forced to slow down and take place behind him again.

Sick bastard. He gets might angry with you if you flash your lights or tailgate him, two things I regularly do with tossers like Mike. I've narrowly avoided some very nasty incidents with him and I hate him more than any other type of driver.

10. The Schumacher Of Claremont

That would be me. The oke who knows - deep down inside - that had he received the same opportunities as Michael Schumacher when he was a kid he would be eight-time formula one world champion by now.

He feels a need to prove it, not just to himself but to anyone who cares to get into his car.

Going slow is not an option, and he obeys the Schumacher Dictum as he would a command from God himself: "Thou shalt not pass."

He gets infinitely annoyed when people point out to him that although he is indeed a good driver other people aren't, and that by driving fast he is setting himself up for disaster.

They point out to him that if he has a blowout at 140 the result will be far nastier than if he has a blowout at 60, and what pisses him off is that he sees the logic in that.

He simply doesn't have it in him to slow down, though, and no amount of pleading, cajoling or arguing will ever change that.

He lives to discover where The Edge is, and the only way to find The Edge is to put one boot over it and live a thousand nightmares in a split second trying to haul it back.

He does terrible things to a car on mountain bends in the dead of night, and lives through all kinds of terrifying moments.

But he never causes an accident because he's ten times more hyper-aware than any other driver on the road. He seeks perfection in his craft and his attention to even the most minute details is astonishing and exhaustive.

He won't die in his car and he won't kill anyone else. He'll be justified in getting angry about slowpokes but hypocritical about the dangerous speeds he drives at.

He'll recognise all that and simply not care. He is the Schumacher of Claremont.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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