“Where’d you learn to drive? Mario Kart?”
Freeways are getting worse, have you noticed? There are lots of reasons, but I’ve singled out one particular type of driver for today’s sermon–the “Mario.”
You know this type of driver. What you may not have noticed, is how much of his or her rudeness and rage comes from the primary training ground most kids attend these days: The Mario Kart School of Driving.
Watch kids play their Nintendo games and see if I’m not right. Cutting people off for sport, rushing to get ahead of the other guy, tallying up points for being aggressive. After kids do this for ten years or so, they graduate up to the real thing–and I don’t mean Championship Mario. I mean, your local freeway.
When I’m out there on today’s roads, I see some things I had never noticed before. I’m an older, wise driver. You don’t get a lot past me. I’ve seen every stunt imaginable, all across this nation and in a couple of others.
Here’s the worst thing Mario-schooled drivers do: when you put on your blinker to change lanes, they SPEED UP to close you off and not let you in. I can recall a time when a blinker caused you to SLOW DOWN, to politely allow that driver to change lanes. Those were the good old days.
In reaction, many drivers just don’t signal, or they signal and swoop into the lane so quickly a Mario driver doesn’t have time to head them off. That makes them a kind of “Mario,” too. And it makes for some downright reckless lane changes.
And don’t think I don’t see you or know what you’re up to, Mario drivers. An old hand like me can see when you floor it to rush up and close the gap, because the hood of your car rises as you accelerate, just as–in the good old days–it would go down slightly as you braked to kindly let me in. So, I know you’re flooring it when you see my signal. That’s why signaling has become, er, optional for some of us, sometimes.
And I won’t even get into what State Patrollers call “zipperheads,” other than to say they move through traffic in the shape of a zipper, changing lanes super-frequently to pass people on the left, then right, then left.
But here’s what I’m saying. It’s not okay. It’s not just a game. Don’t believe me? Here’s a little cautionary tale.
I came on the I-5 freeway entrance at Snoqualmie Pass, with the highway covered in an inch or two of compacted snow and ice, with another inch of fresh snow on top. I accelerated along the on ramp, and as I joined traffic I saw two big semi trucks approaching me from behind. There was plenty of room between them for a safe merge, and I moved smoothly for that point, matching their speed, about 40 mph (remember, it was snowing). The merge would have gone down fine, except the second trucker decided to do a Mario. He hit the gas–and I knew it, because the hood of his truck tractor rose up. He came on like gangbusters, rushing up to close the gap so fast he almost rear-ended the truck in front of him.
Now, at 40 mph on snow and ice, I suddenly had a bit of a problem–staying alive, that is! As the merge lane went away, I had nowhere to go but onto the shoulder, which was piled up with snow. If I had hit the brakes, they probably still would be using the jaws of life to cut me out from under that second truck. But I didn’t panic. I held the wheel smooth and let off the gas and coasted to a slow speed, while the triumphant second trucker roared past.
I got back on the road and went on my way, passing the trucks later with not so much as a hand gesture.
My point is obvious, right? Mario drivers can potentially get people killed, and probably have. I was really shocked that a professional driver like a trucker would do something so juvenile. But there he was: Mario in a Mack.
Anyway. All that said, I’d like to enter a couple of new terms into the modern dictionary:
To “Rush up,” meaning to deliberately accelerate to close a gap another driver wants to lane-change into.
To “Mario” or, to “Do a Mario,” to engage in dangerous driving essentially for the sport of it, as if to win points for getting ahead or cutting the other guy off.
Those are both verbs. Here’s a noun:
“Mario,” defined as the driver who behaves as I’ve described above, playing the highway like a game.
Let me use that last one in a sentence. “Hey Mario! Where’d you learn to drive?”
Finally, here’s some extra credit reading, in which a scientific study showed that people got more prone to violence playing Mario Kart than playing shooter games.
I believe it.