The Early Tears with Vic Pasternak: Lesson #9 — And Babel is the traffic of Language

Illustration by Josh Carroll
Illustration by Josh Carroll

#23. Maintain your lane. Dominate it. Most drivers aren’t paying attention. Take advantage of this and look the fuck out.

#24. Drive off-center of the driver in front of you so as to see a direct angle of the traffic lanes ahead. If you can’t get an angle, look through their windshield. Try to get a feel for the shape of the traffic.

#25. Have I mentioned you also need to know the shape of your vehicle? I have backed the rear windows of three minivans into dumpster knobs. Glass is expensive.

#26. When you return to your cab for the start of a shift, everything will be as you left it. Touch the steering wheel, feel smoke. The rear armrest on the door behind you is missing. Loose, decorative chrome presents a puncture hazard, and there is a metal plate bolted over the hole in the floor. The cab is also down two quarts, needs vacuumed, has garbage under the seat and smells like an ashtray, with a hint of rotting bologna. Or maybe that’s the Nag Champa. Any case, better than a hint of regurgitated booze, or a whiff of colostomy juice. Shut up, be happy.

#27. Never trust your dispatcher and don’t always trust yourself. Your dispatcher lies to you over the radio, to get the math to work out how they prefer. You lie to yourself in your head for the exact same reason. When in doubt, trust what you see on the ground before trusting anybody coming in over a radio, or a television for that matter. Too many cab drivers have become U-boat captains by letting dispatch tell them to drive through the water.

#28. Listen to your car. Does your car sound like it’s dying? Probably needs oil. And you know how it gets with the power lags and shit? Needs oil. And, is it today? Dip the stick, please. Always check the oil and ensure it needs less than a quart. You may have to check it more than once during a shift, and sometimes, to check it, you even might have to put your ass out in inclement weather.

#29. Unless you’ve just been issued a brand new cab, your front end is splashy. You might feel dead play in your turns, or the vehicle may drift even more to factory right. Always change out what holds the car together, if you can afford it. Joints loosen and wear, and ball-joints go out, especially on cop cars and cabs, because both make a lot of hard turns at high speed. I came in hot off the highway over those tracks south of town and watched my driver’s-side front tire sail off on its own course. A lesser driver would not be around to warn you.

#30. Make sure everything works. I once picked up two young ladies from the Lumberyard right before it began to rain in sheets. That was a shitty time to learn that I’m pretty good at freeway driving while keeping my windshield clear with a squeegee stolen from the QT on Wright’s Blvd.

#31. Seriously, man: Just check the damn oil before the engine blows up, and meanwhile somebody else won’t have to dump three quarts in because you couldn’t get off your ass. Keep an extra quart in the trunk, or under the hood. Keep two if your engine burns it.

#32. On that note, if you drive an SUV it had fucking better be for work or because you live outside of town at the end of a mud track. Or because of a mental condition, like you find more dignity in lifting your ass four feet off the ground than squeezing into a Chevette. Or because of general insecurities, or your little dick, or terror of men. More than 99 percent of you drive like assholes.

#33. If you do drive a big-ass rig for work-related purposes, fucking great. And if you boss those trucks? P.S.: Your fleet drives like shit. How about some damned training? Your drivers are as piss-poor as the jagoffs in casual pickups.

#34. Respect the fucking Right of fucking Way. How difficult is that, huh? RIGHT of way. Fuck.

#35. Seriously.

#36. And get out of the fucking left lane, you cow of an imposition.

#37. Always look for regular vehicles in the road. Police cars, for example. Get to know the whine of their brakes and engines. Recognize the splash pattern of their headlights. Get to know their silhouette from all angles and anticipate where they’ll pinch you.

#38. Look for motorcycles to dart out in front of you. Same applies to toddlers, drunk students, the elderly, the confused and never-been-gracefuls.

#39. A line of cars tends to follow the leader, both in speed and in microchanges of direction. This means when the first guy blasts over the pothole, chances are others will follow suit. So don’t get lazy and follow the leader. Be the leader and people will follow you.

#40. Follow the fog line through oncoming brights, or in hard rain or snow.

#41. Drunks will drive rubbery toward the headlights and kill the fuck out of you and your children. Pass wide and see above, and below:

#42. Don’t let the road paint hem you into an accident. Drive out of bad shit even if it means taking it down a snowy hillside, or across a relatively clear sidewalk. Lean into that shit, get out alive, collect money and do not apologize for any bumpy trips: “You’re alive, sir, good fucking day, sir. Or night. Night, day, don’t mean shit…”

#43. Judge your best lane whenever bearing down on a chokepoint, be it a red light, a congested exit, the mall or McDonald’s.

#44. Don’t veer for deer. And don’t drive so fast that you crush over cats, raccoons, squirrels or owls, all of which I’ve nailed by driving too fast. I am going to Hell; please don’t join me.

Sean Preciado Genell is author of the Vic Pasternak novel ‘All the Help You Need,’ available now at Prairie Lights. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 207.

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