Monday, July 13, 2009

Special Guest Motorist: Aaron!

"As for my own driving experiences in Rhode Island, I'd like to explain an exasperating phenomenon that I first became familiar with when I started at Providence College in '94. It was one of my first indicators that RI drivers were cut from a crooked cloth. My college friends and I called it the Rhode Island Block.

It occurs in situations when a driver is positioned at a stop sign and he/she wants to make a turn onto a main road. There are no stop signs for traffic on the road that the driver wants to turn onto, but the Blocker acts as though there are. The Block may manifest itself as an insidious creeping into oncoming traffic; it may take more extreme forms where the driver positions his or her car across a full lane of traffic in order to better facilitate a left turn. It nearly always disrupts the flow of traffic on the main road.

At first it seemed to me a kamikaze move, or else a remarkable leap of faith. This driver trusts that the traffic he/she is pulling into will slow down or even stop? But then I caught on. The Blocker knows that the other drivers have no choice but to yield. Beep the horn at him, give him the finger, and call him every name in the book, but you better also stop, because to not stop would be to wreck your own car. It's the ultimate move of mototerrorism. I still encounter it to this day."

Thanks for the message, Aaron. I couldn't agree more. The Rhode Island Block (or "R.I. Cock Block," as I and the wife like to call it) is the ultimate dick move. It exemplifies the classic, narcissistic, I-come-first, you-don't-matter, R.I. motoring mentality. Of course, we rule-abiding, R.I. motorists can't go around t-boning the R.I. C-Blockers, as our insurance premiums would skyrocket (oh yeah, we also don't want to intentionally injure anyone), but we can go slightly beyond the requisite horn-honking, name-calling and flipping of the bird. Here's my counter to the R.I. C-Block: 

1. Make sure your car is in tip-top condition, and the weather is fair. 

2. Make sure you're not driving more than 25 miles per hour. 

3. Approach the R.I. C-blocker at speed. At 30 meters, apply the horn. At 20 meters, apply the brakes . . . hard. Arrive at a stop 5 meters from the R.I. C-blocker, note his/her befuddled expression, and just stare at him/her. Stare at him/her as he/she makes his/her stupid left turn in front of you. Shake your head slightly as he/she goes by. If he/she gives you any guff, just smile sarcastically, nod, and progress forward with the satisfaction of knowing that you're the one wearing clean underpants.*

*Cleanliness of underpants may vary.  

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Weekend Capitalism: Buy a T-shirt; Learn a Secret

Now, for a limited time only, when you buy a "Road Rager" T-shirt, or any item, on the Rhode Rage Merch Page, I will send you an email message containing directions to "the best place to park in the Providence Place Mall parking garage." It's an easy-in, easy-out, little-known nugget.*

Don't like anything on the Merch Page? Send me your design ideas. If they sell, we'll split the profits 50/50.

*Parking space availability not guaranteed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Meredith Vieira: Game Show Host

I realized today after a bit of thinking that I don't loathe Meredith Vieira. Last night, after watching her appearance on Conan from two nights ago, I loathed her, but I'm more ambivalent today. I don't loathe her, but I do loathe the fact that she plays the role of a journalist on Today. And, of course, I loathe Today. I have been boycotting it since earlier this year, as it has become less of a news show, and more of a pop show. Where else can you get the, "I'm sorry, we're out of time," card played after 2 minutes of a health care reform debate, and then get 10 uninterrupted minutes of Miss California talking about her pseudo-persecution drama? Oooh, you got stripped of your rhinestone crown due to an "unfounded" breach of contract? How awful! Go convince a 92-year-old billionaire to buy you a pony, and get over it.

What does this have to do with Rhode Island and my rage? Well, Meredith Vieira is from Lincoln, right next door to my present home town, and she tends to enrage me with her pseudo-journalistic nonsense.

How can anyone take Meredith Vieira seriously as a journalist while she continues to host the daytime edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It's completely incongruous. It's like finding out that Woodward and Bernstein also wrote Beetle Bailey on the comics page. Did Edward R. Murrow moonlight as host of Family Feud (not that it existed in his time)? Now that might have been interesting. "One hundred people were surveyed, and the top four answers are concealed on the board. Here's the question: Beside communists, name an interest group that mature Americans can engage in conversation and controversy, the clash of ideas, with anywhere in the world without becoming contaminated or converted."

Back to you, Meredith. My problem with her is that she doesn't strike me as a very intelligent individual, yet she is second chair on a show that somehow continues to take itself seriously as a news program. Sure, she's affable; attractive even. It's easy to see how she has climbed the rungs of the talking head ladder. But a Susan Schmidt, she is not. She is not even a Katie Couric. The only scoop Meredith will break is an ice cream scoop during another insufferable Today "Summertime Food" segment.

So stop pretending, Meredith. Leave the journalism to the highly critical, and stick with the fluff. Stick with Millionaire.

A minor but necessary point on communication: When being interviewed, always cross your leg toward the interviewer, not away from the interviewer. It is an inclusive gesture to, if the interviewer is on your left, cross your right leg over your left toward the interviewer. On Conan the other night, Meredith crossed her left leg over her right, away from Conan, during the interview despite otherwise seeming as though she really wanted to make out with him. Talk about mixed signals; no wonder she hosts both a "news" show and a game show.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Your Turn. Be Sure to Signal.

Well, Rhode Rage is two weeks old now, and I want to hear from you! It's time to compile a mailbag. What are your Rhode Island motoring horror stories? What are your non-motoring, Rhode Island horror stories? Lay 'em on me, (wo)man. Email me at the link to the right, or here, at

Thanks for all the encouraging feedback. I look forward to hearing from you!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"I Want to Sell YOU a Cah"

There is a strictly enforced law in our great State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations* that states that, if you own a furniture store, law firm, or car dealership, you must conceive, write, and star in all television advertisements promoting said business. Local, upstanding role models include Abrams & Verri Attorneys at Law, Mike Grieco of Metro Honda, and the Cardi Brothers of Cardi's Furniture Superstores.

Balise Toyota, your days are numbered. You think you can flaunt your anonymous, articulate announcer & professionally-designed, animated logo and get away with it? Please don't make me laugh. Rhode Island and Providence Plantations' finest are concocting a sting operation that will make "Operation Plunderdome" look like a hall monitor citation. You're going down, and going down hard.

Maybe, MAYBE, Mr. Balise, if you were to immediately enroll in the Ed Tarbox School of Broadcasting, cast yourself & and a young relative in a brand new ad, and get the ad on the air within 24 hours ("That's the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations way!" as Sean Connery might say in The Unbroadcastables), the State could let you off with just a warning. But if they ever catch you running a tasteful TV commercial again, they're going to unleash the street justice of the Cardi brothers on your ass, who will promptly knock you out and Ni-Ro-Pe(e) on your face. Consider yourself warned.

*Yes, this is Rhode Island's official name. We love bad ads, bad driving, and, above all, wasting ink.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"You Didn't Have To Be So Nice"

We all make mistakes. We all get into binds every now and then. We've all stalled at a stop sign during our first time driving a standard. We've all counted on the kindness of strangers. Yes, there is plenty of room to be forgiving on the road. We can all let the guy with a flat tire cross over to the breakdown lane. We can all give the elderly an extra 20 seconds to cross the street. There are times and places to be gentle motorists . . .

. . . and there are times and places to indulge in one's right of way.

Picture this: I am stopped on a secondary road at a "T" intersection of a primary road, and am signaling to make a left turn onto the primary road. A vehicle approaches from my right with its left turn signal flashing. It intends to turn onto the road I am presently stopped on. There is no stop sign or signal on the primary road. Who must yield the right of way? Obviously, I must. Instead of making the turn, though, the driver of the car on the primary road (let's call her Beatrice) stops and waves for me to make my turn first. "Uhhhhhhnnn," I growl, and the conundrum begins.

I shake my head, and wave for Beatrice to make her turn, but she persists, having just had a manicure, pedicure and facial; cranking "Walking on Sunshine" on 92 Pro FM. Hmmmmph. There will be no arguing with Beatrice, that laser beam of stonewall generosity. She waves back at me, more enthusiastically this time. I am Randy from A Christmas Story responding to my mother's prompts for me to eat (pre-piggy trick). I am as reluctant as a banker at a Phish concert.

Regardless, I clear my mucus membranes and look to the left. Oh, a car. It goes by. I inch out. (Remember, both I and Beatrice are planning left turns.) I look to my right. It's clear. I start forward then stop, as the rightly impatient driver behind Beatrice passes her to her right. Now I'm stuck in the primary road, and, you guessed it, here comes another car from my left. The driver of that car is pissed at me. I'm pissed at Beatrice. I'm pissed at myself for giving in to Beatrice's positive, yet increasingly impatient, vibes. My car, Rusty, is pissed at me for almost getting us clipped. It's a classic motoring clusterf-.

Everything eventually works out, but everyone feels a bit nauseated for the remainder of his/her drive. Yes, Beatrice too. "Walking on Sunshine" has become saccharin and salty. The moral of the story is this: Nobody likes a Beatrice, so don't name your daughter that.


The moral is this: Right-of-way rules are made so that you don't have to be nice. Just drive, and take that advantage of those yielding to your right of way. You'll be on the giving end soon enough. There's always another intersection down the street, so be nice and don't be nice.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pedestrian Pedestrians and The Vicious Cycle of Cyclists

Good 4th of July weekend? Hands and digits intact? Welcome back to work. Now get to earning back that hundred bucks you smoked on just-loud-enough-to-annoy-and-not-inspire-the-neighbors, discount fireworks that you shot off at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 5th, when everyone was trying to ease out of the weekend on the couch with a decent movie. And on a(n) (un)related note, why are fireworks legal in most states, but psychedelic mushrooms are illegal across the board in all states? What's a more dangerous recreational activity? Gathering 50 people around a coffee can and launching explosive projectiles out of it? Or, eating a few caps, kicking back on the recliner, firing up some Kevin Mahogany through the headphones, and watching the ceiling fan dance for a few hours? 

The longer you run backwards, the more time you spend convincing yourself that you're making progress. 

That's really why I write this blog: to perhaps aid in slowing down the runaway machine of American illogic, irresponsibility, and ignorance. If I can get Rhode Island motorists to shape up and change their ways, then anything is possible (as if the 2004 Red Sox and the election of Barack Obama didn't prove that already). Maybe things are getting better, and I should lighten up . . . but then if I did that, I wouldn't be writing this post, and filling a temporary void for you, my loyal readers. 

So, critical by nature, I present yet another glorious nugget published in the Rhode Island Driver's Manual. On page 48, under section C, in the second bulleted list, in the third bullet, see the second sentence. I love this. This is vindication in a bottle. Sugar from Survivor says, "Get ready for the funkiest night of your life. Wait for it. Wait for it . . :"

"• If there are no sidewalks, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the road facing traffic."

Now light that coffee can and launch the rest of your fireworks, neighbor. 

There it is, in black and white. There will be no more shock when I blare my horn at you, your dog and your walking buddy as you hog my lane, conversing care-freely with your backs to my approaching car. WALK FACING TRAFFIC. This will allow you more time to not only dive into the woods as approaching garbage trucks barrel toward you, but more time to get into a single file with your dog and your walking buddy as I barrel toward you (more like soda can toward you).

Wow, page 48 of The Manual is a dense page! Your turn, bicyclists (unicyclists, you're off the hook, so, by all means, die juggling):

"Bicycle riders are given the same rights and must obey the same laws as drivers of motor vehicles. In addition, they should follow these rules:

• Bicycle riders should ride as close to the right of the road as they can do safely."

In other words, while riding a bike, pretend you're driving a very slow car, ride WITH traffic on the far right of the right lane, and ride as motor vehicles normally travel. Do drivers of motor vehicles normally drive on sidewalks? Well, maybe in Rhode Island, but hopefully only while failing a driving test, as Page 9 points out: 

"The following are reasons for immediate failure of a driving test:

• Leaving the designated roadway (driving on the sidewalk . . . "

So don't ride your bicycle on the sidewalk, people like the kid I yelled at on Thayer Street on Saturday! If you're scared to ride your bicycle on a busy street in Rhode Island (as I am, for if you haven't guessed, I don't trust R.I. drivers), then WALK! 

Back to Page 48, Section E.:

"• No more than two (2) bicycles may ride side by side."

Now this DOES NOT mean that you SHOULD ALWAYS ride side by side. It means that if you have keen cycling skills, and keen senses, you "MAY" ride alongside your biking buddy at times. You should infer that, should a vehicle approach from behind, you and your biking buddy should change your formation to single file, especially if a garbage truck is approaching from the opposite direction at the same time. You know what? Just always ride as if garbage trucks are simultaneously approaching you from opposite directions, and you won't hear me yelling at you as I pass by. 

Enjoy the peace.