Both my peace and serenity were rudely shattered today at approximately 4:05 in the afternoon as my driver-side mirror exploded while passing an oncoming Ford on a West Asheville back street. It was one of those Ford supertrucks. The ones that come off the lot looking customized for extra badassedness. They float just a little higher off their mighty wheels than other work trucks, and their mirrors extend just a little bit wider to each side. It’s basically the truck design version of a cat with its back up. Vanity trucks. I’ve always admired them, and today they’ve risen another notch in my esteem.
Asheville is full of old neighborhoods with narrow streets and even narrower driveways, if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Our neighborhood was laid out when families owned one car. One skinny car. Nowadays to venture forth in an automobile is to engage in an extended game of vehicular chicken. I recommend driving around in Mexico as a confidence builder for this sport. In Ada’s hometown of Matamoros, literally translated “kill the Moorish people,” stop signs and traffic signals are only hopeful suggestions. The only truly respected code of the road warrior is: He Who Has the Biggest Cojones Has the Right of Way.
It’s taken me years of daily near collisions to see that our narrow streets are actually much wider than they appear. The problem is that a healthy fear of bodily injury and insurance adjustors causes the road to shrink and our imagined personal envelopes to swell. I try to counteract this warping of perspective by driving faster, which fosters both the improved ballistics of a given mass at greater velocity, as well as a grim disdain for approaching cars that slow and duck out of the way. I can actually feel the road widening and my truck contracting as I lean on the pedal and tighten my eyes on the narrow space between oncoming and parked cars. Also, driving an older model car that’s fully paid for helps tremendously.
I was in that focused, warping space filled with both the peace and tranquility of acceleration when my tight-to-truck side mirror smashed into that Ford stickout-showoff mirror and exploded two feet from my face, showering my beard with sound and fury. My initial reaction says volumes about my general position on moral issues. I thought, “my fault.” The Ford driver was in full agreement, even though his superior vehicle had suffered exactly zero damage. From the violence of my own truck’s reaction to the collision I feared the other vehicle would require towing assistance, but the vanity truck was unscathed.
A swarthy viking carpenter emerged from the other truck which advertised some bullshit green building contractor. Something like Precious Earth Builders. This guy had me beat on all counts: better looking, better marketing, better truck, unbroken mirror. I said, “Well. You won that joust.”
He replied with a grin and a dismissive, “Well. I did have the right of way.” As if it’s common knowledge and in the driver’s ed handbook that the side of the street with no cars parked is the side where drivers can crash into other cars without fault. There shone his unblemished mirror as evidence to his claim. For a second I actually agreed with him. Thank you guilt-filling episcopal upbringing! Thanks for keeping me on the hook when things go sideways. Viking carpenter was already away in his sexy truck while I stood there in the street looking down at the broken remains of my mirror as if they were tea leaves, trying to read in them an answer to a question I couldn’t come up with.
Now I’m learning to drive without a side mirror. The trick is remembering that it’s broken. On the way home it was a bit like recovering from serious brain trauma. I kept checking the mirror for lane changes and EVERY time was surprised that instead of useful reflected information there was just a gaping socket where some enterprising spider had spun its web.
Right of way my buttocks. That guy just had bigger huevos.