Pet peeves, the things that bug us the most. Everybody’s got at least one and I guess you could say I have more than my share. But there’s one that really red-flags me. You see, patience has never been one of my virtues. And Pennsylvania drivers make me want to rip my hair. I have this theory that the only Pennsylvanians who get drivers licenses are the ones who don’t pass the road test.
I used to live in New York, fairly close to Pennsylvania, but I golfed at a course just across the border, so I spent a lot of time on the two-lane roads from my home to the course. And almost every time going or coming home, I could count on one or more Pennsylvania caravans—little bunches of three to ten cars all tootling down the road at 43 mph, all bunched up behind the lead car, all doing 43. Not 42, not 44, but 43 right on the money—nobody ever passing anybody else because I swear Pennsylvanians think that’s illegal. So there I’d be, fuming at the back of the pack, and the Pennsylvanians ahead of me—oblivious to me and my anger, oblivious to just about everything—were just as pleased as punch.
I noticed, whenever stuck behind a Pennsylvania car, that the occupants really seemed to enjoy eyeballing the scenery and conversing with each other. I’d watch them there ahead of me, their heads bobbing back and forth, looking out the side windows at the countryside, then back to look at each other. Apparently they can’t talk without eye contact. But they would never look in their rearview mirrors. They hadn't the foggiest notion that there was a guy behind them about to have a seizure, a guy who at any moment might go berserk and smash into their backsides. They’d just go on tootling down the road, and in my mind I heard Mortimer Snerd going, “Dum de dum de dum, uh yupp, uh huh, yupp. Oh, hey, look, Ethyl, the Johnsons got a new yard ornament—a stuffed bear bendin’ over the garbage can. Uh, yupp, that sure is cute all right. Goes really good with the mallard wind gauge ‘n’ the butterfly on the garage door. Uh yupp, uh huh, ‘n’ I always hafta chuckle when I see that wooden cutout of the lady bendin’ over the flower garden ‘n’ that cute little wooden schnauzer sniffin’ her bottom. Oh yeah, that’s a good un. Dum de dum de dum. Whattay think, Ethel? Wanna drive on over ta the mall ‘n’ look around? Maybe go ta Ponderosa fer dinner? Let’s see, fifteen miles from here. Shouldn’t take us more’n half hour or so. You game, Ethyl?”
Any time I see a car making some strange maneuver, I can almost count on its having a Pennsylvania plate—you know, the old “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” plate. Whenever I see a car signaling a left turn from the right lane, I go out of my way to check it out. Sure enough, blue plate, and almost always a little old couple in front and another in back, both ladies with carefully coifed blue hair. Or if I get stuck behind a car doing 25 in a 40 mph zone, I just know who it must be. They feel obligated to go ten to fifteen slower than the posted limit. It’s the same principle that applies when they see a 30 mph curve sign. They follow those instructions to the letter—no, I mean ten letters less. And down hills no matter how steep or gentle the grade. Any time I see someone’s brake lights blinking on-off, on-off, on-off going down a hill, I just know it’s a Pennsylvania dingdong.
I remember a time when we still lived in New York, I noticed a car right-turning into Ponderosa. Pennsylvanians love Ponderosa and will drive hundreds of miles from remote Pennsylvania outposts just to come to the one in Lakewood. The car was tootling a nice safe 5 mph for the turn, making a big surprise loop out to the left before turning right.
“Heh, heh, heh, uh yupp. Gotta keep them nervous New Yorkers on their toes, Ethyl.”
Sure enough, true to form—they turned into the Exit, much to the consternation of a driver just leaving.
“Oh, hey, Ethyl, ya see that nice man wave ta us from his car? They sure wave funny in New York, though, with just that one finger. Uh yupp, uh huh, dum de dum de dum."