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 live in New York, fairly close to Pennsylvania, but I golf at a course just across the border near Warren, so I spend a lot of time on the two-lane roads from Lakewood through New York and Pennsylvania to the course. And almost every time I’m going or returning, I can 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’ll 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—are just as pleased as punch.
I’ve noticed, whenever I’m stuck behind a Pennsylvania car, that the occupants really seem to enjoy eyeballing the scenery and conversing with each other. I 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 never look in their rearview mirrors. They haven't the foggiest there’s a guy behind them about to have a seizure, a guy who at any moment might go berserk and smash into their backsides. They just go on tootling down the road, and in my mind I hear 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 in Lakewood ‘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?”
And 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.
“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.”