Well, I have received my first official blog request from my friend Stacy. Her topic of choice? Tailgating. Not the intoxicated-and-shirtless-man-mass-huddled-around-a- barbeque-grill-in-the-parking-lot kind of tailgating. I’ve come to believe that such a scenario either exists only in Miller Lite commercials or is simply foreign to my world, because I have yet to witness anything like it firsthand. This is probably because parking lots in Phoenix are much like crock pots, and, were Phoenicians to tailgate, burgers and bratwurst could be prepared sans grill, seared to perfection on the hood of an F-150. No, I’ve been assigned to write about the other kind of tailgating. The kind of tailgating that has elicited such bumper stickers as: “I brake for tailgaters,” “Stop tailgating me, or I’ll flick a booger on your windshield,” and “Unless you’re a hemorrhoid, get off my…” Well, you get the picture.
The experience of being tailgated almost always begins with a look into the rearview mirror. You’ll glance up at it as you do periodically, then do a double-take, wondering why the car behind you has no hood. “Am I towing somebody?” you may wonder to yourself. Perhaps so, but more likely you are the victim of a tailgater. I think the offense that we find with tailgaters is similar to that which we find with close-talkers: an invasion of personal space. The difference with a close-talker is that if you need to suddenly end the conversation, the threat of whiplash is not involved. This must be why following too closely can be punishable by law and close-talking is only a minor social annoyance. But that is a blog for another time.
I find that riding in the car with a tailgater is far more nerve-wracking than actually being tailgated. The driver will carry on casually, oblivious to the concept of a following distance and completely unaware of the nail marks that you are leaving in the armrest. You may attempt to hold up your end of the conversation with distracted “uh-huh”s and “oh, really?”s, but mentally you are occupied with visions of truck under-ride and airbags deploying as your right foot continues to involuntarily press down on the imaginary passenger-side brake pedal.
I must admit, as most of us would, that I have been on both sides of tailgating. I’m not much of an aggressive driver now that I cart around two babies in the backseat, but over the years I have learned a thing or two about the practice both firsthand and through the observation of others. One thing is for sure: while there may be a time now and then when tailgating is warranted, there are more often times to relax and back off. So I will wrap up this fragmented entry by compiling a short list of guidelines that the casual tailgater may find helpful in discerning when tailgating might not be the best idea.
When Not to Tailgate
-On the freeway.
-When testing for your driver's license.
-When you’re stuck behind a car that has had its turn signal on for 6 blocks. This is a waste of your energy. If they haven’t noticed the continuous clicking and flashing lights coming from their dashboard, they most certainly are not going to notice you either.
-When the car in front of you displays any or all of the aforementioned bumper stickers.
-When any of your passengers have a known heart condition.
- When driving without car insurance, or with a deductible that could single-handedly send you into personal bankruptcy.
- Sunday mornings, en route to church. Chances are, the driver in front of you meandering along at 10 miles below the speed limit is headed to the same place you are. Better to be a few minutes late then to rear end an elder.
-When the car in front of you indicates an affiliation with the NRA.