Lush life


Allowing for seasonality, automobile drivers here share the roads with bicyclists, motorcyclists, mopeders, joggers, runners, 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.

I have attempted to rank all of these contenders according to their relative abilities to get along with drivers. (Actually, with me 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). 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 cadavers are generally no more than spreading stains upon the pavement of life.

Guinea hens, for all their noisy protests, hurry out of the way when they notice an automobile approaching. Bicyclists, who are given to condescending glares, also move over. So, I suppose the two must share this rung on the ladder. But, for the record, the guinea hens’ cultivated appetite for ticks has earned them a place of some veneration in our society. That obviously distinguishes them from cyclists.

Joggers, 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.

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 asphalt space, 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. You just want to get safely by these people.

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. I think my car breathes through its nose. That is, it sucks up fresh air into the engine space and the heating/cooling circulation system through a low scoop at the very front of the vehicle. An inch or two lower, and the scoop would gather up the skunk carcass itself. And, although sometimes I try to straddle them when they are wasted smack in the middle of my lane, 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. The grille on my car is partially toothless due to a deer fracas. I have to open the hood with a twisted metal clothes hangar. And never mind what they are doing in the gardens.

There’s nothing much good to say about deer, except “venison.”

Still, top honors go to the turkeys, a species in the news and on the table (though never in sufficient numbers) this time of year.

I’ve urged the president not to pardon these aggravating, cretinous creatures. I’ve suggested drone strikes, but he’s apparently consulted with the turkeys’ human equivalents in Congress, and no action seems forthcoming.

Turkeys resemble runners in the way they conduct their business in a gaggle that assumes much more of the road 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 necrophagous arts on this extraordinarily infuriating species.