I've told you before that, in my experience around cars, you can't judge a book by it's cover (although you can book a judge to read excerpts from her book cover). The BMW that swerves over on you today will look just like the one that stopped to offer help last week while you were fixing a flat. Your best bet is to instead watch for driver behavior that indicates that he/she is under the impression that their time is more valuable than anybody else's. To these people, you are nothing more than a speed bump ... sometimes literally.
One thing that I've discovered here in Florida, however, is the wonderful way that the state has of offering insight into the soul of the being behind the wheel. They do this by offering 120 -- yes, 120 -- specialty plates. And you may think that this is a lot, particularly since Tennessee only had 90 (and still no Share the Road plate), but I've read that Maryland has 700 specialty plates. One for every resident.
Florida has 36 for its various colleges and universities, and nine more for professional sport teams. There's one for every branch of the service, and for the Boy Scouts. There's not one for Girl Scouts, although I hope that somebody gets that going. Maryland is laughing at us.
Most specialty plates promote the driver's private passions. Mine is, of course, predictable:
And, as befits a half-flooded peninsula, there's stuff for the fishermen:
This one says, "I catch fish but don't kill them. Torturing them is enough for me."
This one says, "I catch the swordfish that the last dumb peckerwood tossed back, and I eat the hell out of that mother."
This one says, "I like to eat fish that thrive on nuclear waste from Cape Canaveral."
This one says, "Shoot, man, the ones eatin' poop from Sarasota are much tastier."
This one says, "Y'all are too picky. I like to catch and eat fish from anywhere. They're yummy. Nom, nom, nom."
Now, if you think that these plates are only on the back of extended cab Ford F-350's, you are wrong. They're on the back of Chevy trucks, too. From a cycling perspective, however, I find that these guys usually pass when it's safe, and move over enough. One thing about fishing -- you gotta have patience.
Other plates, however, I watch out for. Like this one:
Most of these people are psycho. Not the Alfred Hitchcock kind of way, but the way in which people say one thing when they mean something entirely different.
"Choose Life." Okay. I like life. I like to live. As best I can recall, I've enjoyed living a whole heck of a lot more than I ever enjoyed being dead. I plan to keep on living for as many years as I can.
I also like to "choose." Take me to Shoney's big breakfast buffet and I am all about the choice. Being able to choose means that you are free, right? And people like freedom ... well, except maybe the Taliban. From what I hear, they are "anti-choice" on a lot of stuff.
Now, if you look into the organizations behind these specialty plates, you'll find that the money from the sale of the plates supposedly goes to support adoption services for unwanted pregnancies. That's a great idea. If people would just stick with that, they'd be literally helping people "choose life."
But we get a lot of nut-jobs down here in Florida who tend to take it a little further, and these folks all have this specialty plate. They don't just want you to choose life -- they want you to choose not to have a choice about life. We've seen them picketing on the side of the road for literally miles. Most of them were really old, waving signs, yelling at the cars.
They were probably the scariest bunch of foaming-at-the-mouth old farts that I have ever seen in my life. Virulent grandmas ... worse than zombies. Definitely against freedom. Might even have been some Taliban in there.
These are the kind of folks that love nothing more than to judge.
"Look at that hussy! That skirt is barely below her knees!"
"Look at that bum begging for money! He's probably not even a veteran. I'll bet he lost his legs by getting drunk and falling asleep on the railroad tracks."
And, of course, "Look at that idiot on that bicycle. Wearing tight clothes -- it's of the devil! He should get a job so he can afford a car."
So I watch out for cars whose plates say "Choose Life," but who really mean "Choose My Way Or Die." They believe (oh, boy, do they believe!) that their time is much more valuable than mine -- and not just because they don't have much of it left. They have Important Things To Do, rather than frivolously pedaling along the back roads of this gorgeous planet on a slow bicycle, intimately enjoying every moment to its fullest.
That's not the life that they would choose for me.