BRANDON FOUNTAIN: Lead, follow or get out of the way

The Dirty Dodge, the affectionate nickname of my late-model Dodge Dakota, and I are getting used to rolling down the road.

It’s been a handful of years since I spent so much time driving.

Some things have changed, some haven’t.

The roads are just awful. Years and years of patchwork are not going to hold. The folks in charge have spent their time dragging their feet while the roads deteriorated.

Surprisingly, gas prices are only 30 cents more  per gallon than what I paid back then.

One thing hasn’t changed: Some drivers still don’t know what they’re doing on the road.

With nearly two decades of driving experience under my belt, I strive to be a respectful, courteous, attentive and patient driver, no matter the weather or road conditions.

That being said, like most people, I can only be pushed so far.

I can admit I’ve said words I shouldn’t have. I’m also guilty of waving with the incorrect number of fingers to those who break my “respectful, courteous, attentive and patient” code. I’ve even pulled onto the shoulder of the road to calm down and regain my focus because I was so frustrated by the driver in front of me.

I certainly have had my share of tantrums, as my teenage daughter calls them, for one reason or another. When riding with me, she knows when a situation arises, because the driver or drivers ahead of me get anointed with names. Henry. Claudette. Dixie. John-Boy. Whatever name pops into my head, that’s their new name.

I don’t know why I let other people’s poor driving skills get to me so much. I may be naive, but I believe every driver on the road has the responsibility to be safe, courteous and attentive to others.

Here’s a couple of examples — let’s just see if I’m the only one who would have gotten his feathers ruffled.

In August, as I was driving to Lake County, I came up behind “Gerald,” who was driving a large U-Haul on Northland Drive. I won’t say he was managing, because by appearance alone, it was the first time he ever drove a vehicle bigger than a family sedan. At a whopping 35 mph, from Big Rapids to Reed City, the U-Haul meandered right in the lane, then left, and on and on and on. With no safe opportunity to pass, the Dirty Dodge and I had 13 vehicles behind us when we finally reached U.S. 10. I understand “Gerald” needed to go somewhere, but his disregard for other drivers was blatant.

In early September, I ventured to the opening morning of the Wheatland Music Festival. In a three-hour traffic jam on a dirt road outside of Remus, “Melissa” decided to drive on the left side of the road to get ahead of everyone else. However, a few cars appeared in that lane. The only option was to turn around, right? Instead, “Melissa” laid on her horn until someone finally allowed her to merge. When our slow-moving lane came to a halt again, “Melissa” got out of her vehicle and proceeded to scream at the driver behind her — the same driver who graciously allowed her to get ahead of him.

“Judy” and “David” anxiously pulled out in front of the Dirty Dodge on 80th Avenue as I was heading home from the September Evart school board meeting. However, with “Judy” at the wheel, the farther we went south, the slower she drove. As each dirt road passed, “Judy” progressively slowed until she came to a complete stop. “Judy’s” blinker came on, indicating she was going to make a left turn into a field of hay bales. Not surprisingly, “Judy” turned left, but found herself blocking both lanes. Almost immediately, “Judy” and “David” signaled to me with their hands that they were going to be just one minute — two if you added them together. With a quick swerve backward, “Judy” turned around and started heading north, but not before waving again.

I realize not every driver on the road is as atrocious as “Judy,” “Gerald” or “Melissa.”

However, as road rage incidents seem to increase, I can only shake my head in disgust.

And maybe, wave.