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Published in The Voice, Bloomsburg University's student newspaper,
on October 15, 1987.

Weeding Out Grandmothers

The car's back on the road again. It had a minor malfunction, something to do with a melted engine block or something like that. With my return to work as a medical courier, my ever-vigilant mind zeroed in on the dangers and pitfalls of driving in Pennsylvania. In other words, I needed a topic badly for this morning's column, and this was the first thing that I could think of.

The most important concept to keep in mind while motoring in Pennsylvania is the GGF. It stands for Granny Going Forty, but can be a driver of any age, either gender, or any speed under the legal limit.

A GGF can be a middle-aged lady who doesn't like to drive. It can refer to a carload of sixteen-year-olds who aren't quite sure what they're doing or where they're going, but they are certainly having fun. A GGF can be a 25 year old man in a 25 year old Chevy that isn't capable of going faster than 25 miles per hour. School busses, bakery trucks, and construction vehicles are usually GGFs. Any piece of agricultural equipment or anything with more than 25% of its body surface covered in gray primer is probably a GGF.

Of course, a GGF can also be someone's grandmother driving along at 40 mph in a 55 mph zone. I'm pretty sure it's not my grandmother. I think she lives in another state. I'm not sure which state it is, but I'm pretty positive it isn't this one. But I digress.

Simply defined, a GGF is any vehicle (or driver of said vehicle) that you are stuck behind when you are in a hurry. This vehicle will always be travelling at considerably less than the speed limit, except when a passing zone appears, in which case the GGF will suddenly develop the capability of going 70 mph.

There are two methods of becoming trapped behind a GGF. The first and most common is to have it suddenly pull out from a side street, missing your vehicle by three millimeters. The GGF does not do this on purpose, the GGF does it because he or she cannot see clearly past the end of his or her hood.

The second method of GGF entrapment is to come up behind them on the same road. You will see them off in the distance, ahead of you. Your stomach will sink as you get closer because it is soon evident that the distance between your vehicle and the GGF is fast becoming shorter, indicating that the speed of the GGF is in the single digits.

Why, you are all asking, does the GGF move so slowly? There are many reasons. Some do it because they cannot see their own speedometer, let alone the road signs. Some drive slowly because their vehicles are incapable of higher speeds. (This case is usually accompanied by large clouds of odd colored smoke from the exhaust pipe.) Some GGFs feel that no vehicle should ever move faster than 35 mph, whatever the conditions. Still others believe that they personally have the right to dictate how all others should drive, and that by keeping everyone else lined up at a slow speed the GGF is saving the other drivers from themselves. There is also the occasional GGF who drives slowly just to irritate other people.

The next obvious question (he wrote, crossing off parts of the outline in his notes) is, how do you deal with a GGF? I have long advocated the fitting of large calibre machine- guns under the hoods of passenger cars, but I doubt if such a measure would be approved by the state legislature. Not, at least, in the near future. Failing that, the driver is left to his own devices.

Some drivers prefer to follow the GGF at a very close distance, to let the offender know that he/she is holding up traffic. I don't recommend this technique (commonly known as tail-gating) because it requires that the tailgater have good brakes and excellent reflexes, unless of course the tailgater happens to enjoy accidents. The main reason this tactic usually fails is that most GGFs never look in the rear-view mirror.

There are also a number of GGFs who have the attitude that if a car is following too closely, they should slow down even more to "get 'em off my tail". There is apparently some sort of logic to this, although I can't find it. The reason the GGF is being tailed is because he's irritated another driver by his slow speed. To slow down even more will not lessen the irritation.

My favourite tactic is to pass the GGF at the earliest opportunity, as soon as the proverbial coast is clear. Since a legal passing zone is usually not involved, this move must be used with discretion.

To truly deal with this serious problem, I feel we must initiate some long-term programs. I would like to see a complete, parallel road system to be used by all farm equipment and anyone who can't drive faster than 45 mph. A heavy fine for slow driving should be incurred, with the death sentence for anyone caught with more than ten vehicles lined up behind them.

You might think these measures are a bit too stern, but many of us believe they are long overdue. A road free of Grannies Going Forty is a road of democracy. Or something like that.


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The content on this page was written in 1987
Last updated: June 11, 2016