At Large: Just a little whining

At Large: Just a little whining

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The following has been simmering since summer. Now that November has asserted itself and the population has been pruned, here’s a taxonomy of the competitive environment on Island roads.

Allowing for seasonality, automobile drivers here share the roads with bicyclists, motorcyclists, mopeders, joggers, runners, walkers, dog walkers, power walkers, rollerbladers, deer, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, guinea hens, turkeys, the occasional skittering chipmunk, and crows. The latter will tell you they are there on business, doing a job no one else wants to do. They may be right.

I have attempted to rank all of these contenders according to their relative abilities to get along with drivers. (Actually, not drivers generally, but rather with me in particular, when I’m driving. It’s a subjective thing.) You may propose a different hierarchy, and I say, go for it.

Although they are noisy, motorcyclists are easy for motorists to get along with, mainly because they are so nimble, and they don’t take up much space (except when they hog a parking space that was meant for a car). They are also noisy, so you can hear them coming. Plus, because they always go speeding by, they are quickly out of the way.

Chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, and the crows that attend to their flattened carcasses are generally no more than spreading stains upon the roadways of life. It’s the circle of life.

Guinea hens, for all their noisy protests, hurry out of the way when they notice an automobile approaching. They are like turkeys, but blessed with higher IQs. Bicyclists, who are given to condescending glares, also move over. So, I suppose the guinea hens and the cyclists must share a rung on the fauna ladder. But, for the record, the guinea hens’ cultivated appetite for ticks has earned them a place of some veneration in our society, which certainly distinguishes them from cyclists.

Joggers, walkers, dog walkers, and power walkers aren’t so bad, except the ones who refuse to move off the pavement when the road is narrow and filled with cars. They have an air of asphalt entitlement that is irritating, but no big deal. Incidentally, dog walkers deserve special consideration because of their treasured companions.

Runners, especially threesomes that spread themselves abreast across an entire travel lane, are monstrously exasperating among the offender population, but I put mopeders and rollerbladers in that same category — the annoying-as-hell category. Whether they are wobbling (mopeder) or weaving (rollerblader), they lay claim to precious space on the pavement, and there is no surplus of space. But the worst thing is the sense that mopeders and rollerbladers are just one patch of sand, one rock, one collection of pine needles, or one spray of leaves and sticks away from calamity that will set the table for the oncoming motorist. Post-Sandy and the wild northeaster, those slippery impediments are especially plentiful. The automobile driver just wants to get safely by the multitude of competitors.

Dead or alive, skunks are a pain because you certainly don’t want to hit one. In fact, you don’t even want to drive by a skunk carcass. Sometimes I try to straddle them when they are wasted smack in the middle of my lane, but there’s no escaping the smell.

As we have documented in these pages, deer have gotten beyond all efforts to control their population. They have begun to waste the automobile population in increasing numbers, and never mind what they are doing in the gardens. Nothing much good to say about deer, except “venison.”

Still, top honors go to the turkeys. They resemble the runners in the way they conduct their business in a gaggle that assumes much more of the roadway than it deserves. But, they’re worse. For instance, as you approach, they never hurry to clear the way for your car. Instead, the procession slows. And inevitably one or two decide they’ve forgotten something on the side of the road they came from, so they have to go back. Or maybe they forget which way they were going. Then the tom stops to put on a show, and the others gather round to admire him. What’s so tragic about all this is that both lanes of traffic stop while these numbskulls figure out which way they’re going, so the crows never get a chance to practice their artful necropsy on this extraordinarily infuriating species.