Tuesday, December 23, 2008


What is it about cold, sunny days that makes people drive even worse than usual? Monday was, as predicted, Distilled Essence Of Cold. Not a lot of frost and windshields were clear. Nice, bright morning. The ice that had graced (?) our roads had melted by Saturday. Should have been clear sailin'.

Only not. I bundled up -- thick wool socks, ankle-length bloomers, flannel-lined jeans[1], long-sleeved T-shirt under a good heavy knit under a zip-up hoodie under a sleeveless shell[2], motorcycle boots, scarf, coat, bomber hat (yes, the fur-lined sort with earflaps) and windproof gloves -- and I was fine. The only problem with that get-up is, you can't wear it in a heated area very long without cooking.

The car even started. A little reluctantly, but impressive considering age and mileage. The sky was a beautiful blue bowl overhead, the sun throwing sharp-edged shadows as it crept up the sky like a new member of the Polar Bear Club nerving up for the plunge.

All should have been well.

Wasn't. I went bouncing down the alley and very nearly didn't see cross traffic at the street. Eeek! Well, there's a wake-up. Got out to the main road and had the same thing done to me. At the first intersection with a traffic light, the normal dance had been replaced by dazed dodging. It's a pretty clear run most of my commute, down nice wide streets with good visibility....and I was pulled out on three times and had three more honk/dodge near misses from drivers who somehow failed to see a bright red car with the headlights on.

And the same thing was happening to others all around me.

My theory? Not much of one but I didn't see a lot of sunglasses, despite the intense sunlight. Now singles bars, they keep the lights low, so your pupils will dilate and you'll look "interested" to the people you meet[3] and see them as interested in you, too. (Also helps hide the tacky decor). I think just maybe it works in reverse: on bright days, your pupils contract; what you look at isn't as interesting, not at all. Your attention wanders. You might see but you fail to observe.[4] True or not, I think I was driving better once I'd dug out my sunglasses.

1. Carhartts, my new fave jeans. Especially the warm, flannel-lined ones.
2. Or, unless you speak British, a vest. Also from Carhartt. Seems to be made of canvas and felt -- warm.
3. True fact: if you look at a person or whatever and find it attractive, your pupils dilate. If you don't like it, they contract.
4. With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Carhartts are the bomb diggity shiznitt. The jeans are awesome, and most made in America.

Like denim, Carhartt is the uniform of those who do, rather than those who merely aspire. Good on you. Probably look good on you, too.

Turk Turon said...

It's those freakin' Hyundais and their freakin' optical cloaking technology.

Tam said...

Good thing you weren't on a scooter, in more ways than one!

Anonymous said...

I take it you've read Niven's "A Gift From Earth" novel about Plateau Eyes?

Anyhoo, that's not the cause here in Minnesnowta. We figure that a lot of people have water-soluble brains. When it snows or rains, their brains simply melt, and they're incapable of driving.

George said...

I think that Blackwing may 'ave it! That would explain the apparent brainlessness of drivers up here in the less snowy parts of the Great White North. Either that, or there are a bunch of runners taking driving tests for the driving disabled. Oftimes, I can't believe what I'm seeing.


Anonymous said...

I'd lean toward blaming four-days-before-Christmas (minds on presents and planning, not on driving) combined with a bunch of folks taking the week off, and therefore running outside their normal patterns. Although the bright sun doesn't help, either. Amazes me the number of folks who don't keep a set of sunglasses handy in their cars.

Anonymous said...

Aaaccck. When I live in the Great White North, The sun glare from snow and ice could be damn near blinding. But combine that with the holiday season, driving can be a nightmare! Be careful, Robert!

Anonymous said...

Wow, two typos in one posting. That should be "...lived in the Great White North..." and "Be careful, Roberta!!" Not even dressed for the Arctic could you be mistaken for a "Robert".