Normal, Stupid or Jerk?

Ask me to use “normal”, “stupid”, and “jerk” all in one sentence and I’ll say, “normally, I come across at least one stupid jerk a day.” This past Friday, I had the “pleasure” of experiencing more than the usual quota. Permit me to explain:

I live in a 96-unit condo building alongside a major thoroughfare that derives its traffic from the off ramp of the expressway two blocks west of my building. One block east of me is another, much larger
condo complex. My co-owners are the poor cousins and those to the east are the enviable rich ones. They not only have 24 hour doorman service but apparently enough clout so that when the building was built, a stop light was put at the driveway to the complex to make it convenient for the snobs to be able to make a left turn onto the street and go west.

On the other hand, my building has two entrance/exits to the street spanning both sides of the north-side outdoor parking lot and smaller eastern parking area. Our village would never allow for too many stoplights so close to each other, so for those of us trying to get out of the lot and make a left turn onto the busy street, it is pot luck. We have to wait for traffic to subside and sometimes be daring. Those of use, such as yours truly, who habitually use the east driveway to get onto the street have the comfort of taking advantage of a safety island for left turns. If traffic going west is too heavy while nothing is happening on the eastbound side, we can at least make half the effort and get onto the safety island and then wait for the westbound traffic to subside and merge in.

Anyway, Friday morning my car rolls up the indoor lower east garage ramp only to be greeted by eastbound traffic at a total standstill. After waiting a minute or two, I inch my way into it, content to forget about the desire to make a left turn and go westbound. I’m already resolved to the notion of having to go a mile out of my way to finally get my car turned into the intended direction. Even if I tried to just go the one block east to the entrance to our condo neighbors, make a u-turn and take advantage of the stoplight at their driveway, it would not have helped. Other frustrated drivers were not giving up an inch and were blocking any effort at an open path for those at the rich people’s building from making a legally mandate left turn.

As I got closer to ground zero of the cause of this traffic gridlock, it became quite apparent what was occurring. The State of Illinois hands out contracts using taxpayer money to repave streets that don’t need it. You ask how I know that it is a waste? Well, paving the same area three times in six years should be a clue. Worse, they pick the most devastating time of the day to do this work.

They refuse to schedule the work at night because they don’t want to pay a premium for night work as well as fear of their employees getting hit by bad drivers. There is no justification for the first excuse because there should never be a premium paid for working a late shift. In today’s economy, people should be glad to have work. The second excuse is debatable. At night, there is less traffic and it should be more manageable.

I’m not sure if the traffic control workers at the road construction sites are employed by the State or by the contractors who do the work. It doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, they are stupid jerks. (Aha! You were waiting for the tie-in to the title.) Which leads me to first make an observation about this expression:

There used to be a time when being a jerk was synonymous with being stupid. Then, the algorithm changed and one could be stupid or just be a jerk. Jerk became associated with conspiring to be stupid or nasty and not necessarily accidentally. So, if I called you stupid, I understood you could not help yourself. If I called you a jerk, I was confirming that I knew that what you did was intentional, well-thought out and that you would never amount to anything good. But, a stupid jerk! That put someone in a special class. That meant that we all knew that you intentionally did bad by us but you screwed it up and couldn’t even get your evilness accomplished smoothly.

You see, the main corner two blocks east of my building is a diagonal intersect. The road crew decided to repave the left turn lane at the stoplight. In doing so, they closed off the left turn and the left traffic lane, naturally, leaving just the right traffic lane open. However, the stupid jerk traffic control person was holding all cars from pushing into the right lane while the traffic light was green, but letting them inch ahead when it was red. Not only that, but when a dump trump got filled with torn-away pavement and needed to go move it to a landfill, she held up traffic once again while the light was green, instead of waiting until it was red. This kept all eastbound traffic sitting in essentially the same spot for more than ten minutes. And, as I mentioned earlier, this same left turn lane had been repaved twice earlier in recent memory. It did not need another facelift.

The other encounter with a stupid jerk that day also had to do with being behind the wheel. On my way back from visiting a client as well as taking care of a couple of errands, I decided to take a different route back home fearful of being exposed to more roadwork. As I approached the major intersection two blocks west of my building from the north, the car just ahead of me pulled into the left turn lane as I would do to be able to go east towards my building. The driver- at this point sex unknown- stopped in the left turn lane instead of moving up into the intersection to be ready to finish the turn as oncoming traffic cleared when the light changed. Sixteen year old kids just getting their first drivers license know this. But this stupid jerk sat there with a good thirty seconds more left on the green light and was content to wait until the next change to green. Obviously my honking did nothing to budge the driver, but it was a healthy outlet for me.

As soon as the next green light came along with the obligatory left turn accommodation, the car in front proceeded as well mine did after it. Since the street we were both now on was a two-lane road and the car ahead of mine was moving along slowly, I had two thoughts in my head- one was that the driver was ancient and to hold my tongue while the other was to quickly go into the other lane and beat a path around it. As I came along side the driver, I quickly noticed it was a woman probably in her thirties or forties, yakking away on a small phone she held to her ear. Stupid freaking jerk! There, I said it. Thank you.

By the way, the next day, as I was taking a long walk to a planned destination on the street around 7:30am, I saw that the road gang was back out, this time repainting white lines at the diagonal intersection two blocks east. Once again, surreptitiously, the traffic control person decided to stop cars while they had a green light. I smirked, continuing my eastbound walk. two blocks and at least five minutes later, I turned back to see that the easterly traffic was still at a standstill and thought I heard honking.

As Rodney King once said, “Can’t we all get along?” No!