We are still a few years away from having any teenage drivers in our house, but our older three kids are noticing more and more how traffic works and what’s going on around us out there. They are quick to ask about the behaviour of other drivers, and I like to turn those questions and observations into teaching moments. Knowing that you are completely and totally delighted when I parent you, I’m going to indulgently share this series of lessons with you as well. I call it, “Don’t Be That Tool”.
The Litter-bug. Don’t be that tool.
My daughter and I spent half an hour this afternoon picking up litter along our road. We only went about 100 meters and came home with two large bags full of pop cans, water bottles, cigarette packages, coffee cups, chip bags, beer bottles and even a Bacardi bottle! If you are someone who feels like the world is your trash can, let me tell you straight: it’s not. We have actual trash cans almost everywhere. Save your garbage until you get to one. It’s really not difficult. The next time you’re tempted to throw trash out your car window, remind yourself: Don’t be that tool.
Speaking of empty Bacardi bottles at the side of the road…
Little Miss Tipsy. Don’t be that tool.
Come on. I can’t believe this discussion is still required, but apparently some of you out there haven’t heard yet. So let me be the first to tell you: Don’t drink and drive. I am all for driving; it’s fun and it’s often necessary. Likewise, I appreciate an adult beverage from time to time. However, these two activities never, ever, ever (like a Taylor Swift song) belong together. Ever. If you have enjoyed a few too many sips of Late Autumn Riesling (thank you, Inniskillin, for that beautiful nectar), don’t drive. Just don’t! And if you know you have to drive, then don’t drink. Just don’t!
Now I’m going to get harsh here because I love you. If you have trouble resisting the beautiful nectar even when you know you have to drive, then you are messed up and you need help to get sorted out. You are not living your best life. You deserve to be the best you can be, and your family and friends deserve to have the best you. So get thee to an AA meeting and start heading towards your own bestness.
The Anti-Merger. Don’t be that tool.
You know when traffic is grinding to a near stand-still as two or three lanes merge into one because of a construction zone up ahead? And there’s always some tool who thinks he or she is in more of a hurry than everyone else on the road so they ride that ending lane as far as vehicularly possible, sometimes even turning the shoulder of the road into their own personal extend-a-lane. Don’t be that tool. The only possible excuse for this is if you’re in labour, or you’re driving someone who is in labour. That would be forgivable. However, other drivers don’t know you’re in labour, so I hereby declare that every pregnant woman’s hospital bag should contain a sign that says “Please forgive me. I’m in labour.” That way, when it’s seriously time to go, you can stick that puppy in the back window of your car and everyone will understand if you have to do the old anti-merge and last-second butt-in.
The Handicapped Wannabe. Don’t be that tool.
If you are fully capable of walking across a parking lot on your own two feet and you know you have no disabilities whatsoever, for the love of maple fudge, why do you feel the need to park in the handicapped spot? Your self-importance is pathetically misdirected. And I hope that my friend, Andy, sees you and gets in line behind you in the coffee shop because here’s what he’ll say in his deep, booming voice, “I see that you’ve parked in a handicapped spot even though you don’t have a sticker in your windshield. Are you just too lazy to walk across the parking lot? Shame on you.” And he will keep saying it until every patron in the coffee shop is booing you. It won’t be a pleasant experience. So why don’t you just learn this lesson here and now instead of waiting for Andy to find you.
Emergency Services Oblivion. Don’t be that tool.
Emergency services vehicles have these really effective ways of communicating to other drivers that there is an emergency and they need you to move aside for a moment: flashing lights and wailing sirens. It’s a brilliant blend of audio and visual cues that catches everyone’s attention and encourages everyone’s participation. But there are some people who feel like their arrival at their destination is somehow more emergent, so they don’t pull over. I’m going to go out on a limb here, without even knowing their individual circumstance, and say: they’re wrong. Real 911, lights-and-sirens emergencies trump all other “emergencies”.
There are plenty of other tools that you should not be. Make note of them. Don’t be them. Point and laugh at them. However, I’ll conclude today’s lesson here with one final reminder: Don’t be that tool!