Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Draft

The Draft

On the Nature of Fear and Restraint

The act of driving undoes me. I would say, if one desired to see Kevin Cornell at his most raw and primal, the front passenger seat would quite snugly wear the metaphor of front row seat. To put it another way, I am as susceptible as any man to the rage of the road variety. I think this stems from my own personal fears about cars, and my belief that they're just as dangerous as guns, or crocodiles. Should a teenager amble by me on the sidewalk, a crocodile tucked under one arm, without giving me the two-hundred and twenty feet of personal space I'd require in such a situation, I'd unscrew like a pop bottle and scream blisters down his back. I know I'm eventually going to die, but I'd prefer it to not be by crocodile or car wreck; so when that risk presents itself, civil discussion is abandoned in favor of panicked, throaty barking.

That being established, you can understand why I reacted as I did yesterday, when I nearly crashed into that van.

Do Not Misinterpret The Tone of This Article!

But, before I continue, I don't want to mislead you in any way. I want you to know, that this post is about what a Jerk I am. In fact, on reflection, I'd go so far as to say a Fucking Jerk. Now... let's continue...

Act I: Terror Drives a Saturn

To set the scene, I was driving in the city. That should hopefully give you an idea of my frame of mind. When driving in the city, one must drive with foresight, and with complete open-mindedness — you must understand that anything is possible. Think that a car could never fly past you at 65 miles per hour on a 15 mph, two-lane road? Think again. Think that sedan won't drive on the sidewalk? Shows what you know. That can't possibly be a pickup parked diagonally across both lanes with its hazards on while the driver finishes his beer... and yet...

So now you understand my frame of mind. In City-Driving Mode, I'm perfectly ready to view a traffic violation, accept that it happened, and move down the street to the next possible death-trap. So as I coasted down Lombard, my eyes focused on my green light, I was prepared for the van that darted across the intersection. I slammed on my brakes.

A Quick Demonstration of the Situation

I was disappointed in the driver of the van, and indicated so with a polite toot, toot of my horn. He cared little, and moved on. I also prepared to move on, intending to continue through my green light.

But suddenly, another car darted through the intersection, right in front of me. And then another... and another.

Now, I don't have much faith in the good sense of the average city motorist; but I do find it odd that 4 successive cars would risk their lives to get where they're going 1 light sooner, even with the added benefit of enraging me. Therefore, I assumed that these drivers may actually believe they're acting within the bounds of traffic law — is it possible that they have the green light and I do not?

But, sure enough, there's my green light, staring back at me as if to say "You're doing a great job, buddy. Keep it up!"

So I thought to myself... is it possible that BOTH streets have a green light? That can't be... or could it? Is it out of the realm of possibility that the Pennsylvania traffic system contains flaws? I can't see why not... I mean, these are the same people that advocate merging onto one of the busiest highways in Philadelphia from the left, and post signs that say either "No Turn On Red" or "Wait For Green", even though it reads as pretty much the same thing...

Yes. That's it. I couldn't actually see the cross-traffic's light, but they must both be showing greens. What asses, those traffic-light operators...

I pondered this situation, as I sat there in the intersection, surrounded by angry motorists. One of the cars crossing the intersection had stopped in front of me, and I could clearly see the furious people inside screaming filthy words at me, and brandishing middle fingers. Outside, I could hear a chorus of muffled screams, as people rent their throats in absolute, unrestrained anger, anger focused on me, for attempting to cross at a green light while they were driving. How do I explain to these people what happened? So I honk:

"It's green!"

Honk, honk!

"We BOTH have greens!"

So it would have to be at this point, where I finally achieved the status of Fucking Jerk. In my defense, I want to make the following points:

It's really quite difficult to see a sticker in the front windshield of a car in profile. I myself am used to seeing yellow flags placed on the car hood.
I believe I arrived at the middle of the procession. If I saw a hearse pass by, I'm sure I would have understood what was going on.
Once I knew it was a funeral procession, I backed up immediately.

Post-enlightenment, a lot of my lingering questions were answered. For instance, it explains why the people in the car next to me had pulled up, and appeared to be yelling at me; one fellow in the back was half out of the window, his fists clenched, his jowls absolutely trembling at my audacity. It also provides a theory for why 16 consecutive motorists risked crossing at a red light despite the threat of an unpredictable, honking madman trying to barge across.

That's really the worst part of all this. Probably every single person in the procession passed by me, and got to experience that "Soulless animal at Lombard". They probably all arrived at the cemetery, got out of their cars, exchanging phrases like, "That man at Lombard will burn in hell for what he did..." and "I've never seen someone so selfish; we should be burying him instead." I'm probably not worthy to have even "breathed the same air as a great man like Uncle Lester." And so forth.

Act II. Terror Drives His Saturn Home

Despite my soullessness, I persevere. And though it was admittedly difficult to operate my motor vehicle on the drive home — what with me turning into a pile of shit — I arrived home feeling much like myself again. No harm done. What's more, I came to understand that despite my crass behavior, I did my bit for humankind.

For in life, we all must occasionally play the role of Jerk. It is a thankless job, and there are few left who do it professionally; so when the need arises, amateur fools are conscripted from the general populace and strategically placed in a forum where their foolishness will raise the spirits of others. Yesterday, I helped 16 carloads of people feel better about themselves.

Some folks would call me a hero.

Though probably not any of them.

Comments on this Article

There are currently 31 comments.

[ Add one of your own! ]


So the lesson appears to be that if you're in a funeral procession it's okay to ignore the rules of the road. Which it clearly isn't.

Because if you ignore the rules, you may find yourself at the front of another funeral procession much earlier than had you expected.


Haha - nice... although funeral processions ARE allowed to go through red lights, in order to keep up with the lead car. The lead car has to follow normal rules though...

I'd say the real problem here was those damn window stickers...


How rude, it's not like they're in a hurry to get where they're going... Unless it was a particularly hot day?



The moral of the story is, if you are going to ignore the rules of the road because you are in a funeral precession, try informing the police first so that traffic cops can be assigned to the junctions. Funeral or not, you were not the asshole, they were all doing their bit to be uber-assholes in believing that they are more important than the law. I can see why you felt like a total jerk, but lets face it, you really were doing nothing wrong.


(apologies for double post) ...just read that they are allowed run red lights. Cornell you JERK! ;)



The Colonel

I, dear sir, salute you.

While you, and roughly 20 other people, think you're a jerk- I lean toward calling you a hero. You stepped up to be "The Jerk" when all others failed. That's commendable.

Will this be a vocation you'll be taking up full-time, or is this just a one-time, Freelance assignment?

While you certainly have a talent for illustration, it seems your TRUE gift may lie elsewhere.


Of course they thought you a jerk - it's the Saturn. Hummers, on the other hand, earn you the title of "earth-killing asshole" and a Toyota Prius would get you called "pretentious."

Know what would be fun? Get a hearse of your own ("morbid guy") and see how many freeloaders you can rack up behind you through city streets.

My golly - there's a reality-based TV show right there!


All cars in a funeral procession should brandish a street-sign-sized magnet that says FUNERAL on it in big letters. This is what let's you know they're carting a dead dude around and quells your anger. If they didn't have that magnet, you had every right to be a jerk, Kev. Way to go!


i've come across funeral processions in philly as well, and noticed that considerate members of the chain will give a little honk when going through red lights just to make sure nobody t-bones them. in any case, don't feel bad about being yelled at by city drivers. frankly, we're just looking for an excuse.


Priceless. I suppose that there aren't too many fatal accidents as a result of funeral driving. Otherwise the insurance companies would put the kibosh on that shit real quick.

John Nick

You helped 16 carloads of people forget about their grief for a few moments. That's immensely generous and humane.

Not that they DESERVED such generosity. If they were ENVIRONMENTALLY-MINDED they'd have advocated for cremation, or that process where your remains help replenish the coral reefs.

Or the corpse could be used to feed The Bear. Poor hungry bear.


You'd think they wouldn't keep the burial location a secret and just hand everyone directions. Now if it's a New Orleans-style funeral with a band and everything...different story - you'd hear the music and all.

Clever rendering, btw - very funny. Or is that The Hands of the Nature?

Mr. T

Ha Ha ! You are such an ASS !


This morning I sat at an intersection for a what seemed like 10 minutes but was probably around 30 seconds, wondering why the other cars weren't going, only to realize that the intersection wasn't a four way stop, and I had gone from "Mild mannered Matt" to "Clueless dumbass"

My only defense is that it was early morning and I was still tired.


Don't think I've ever seen a van in a funeral procession. Sort of worrying.


You know what!? That threw me off as well... I mean, you don't expect an Econoline Van in a funeral procession....

Unless, that was what the corpse was in...


I think from now on, whenever I go out with large groups of friends, we're just going to make those funeral procession stickers, run red lights, and no one would ever know.


hehe... i myself experience great fits of rage of the road variety. and it's funny because i'm basically known among friends and loved ones for being the "nice girl." but when i'm driving... all my demons are unleashed.

and i've had similar experiences acting like the queen of the road only to find out it was me who was in the wrong... it's not a pleasant feeling.

great post!


Well, honestly with the way most people drive, I don't blame you for being confused. Usually everyone else drives like an asshole anyway. Why would you expect anything less than that?


That kind of thing happens over here all the time. Except there's no hearse or anything, just our minibus taxis trying to outrun each other.
That still makes you an effing jerk, by the way...


a draft! That's a great way to look at it! Thanks for the excuse... not that I'm an idiot very often... or more often than not... or more than 10 times a day... usually...

Cissy Strutt

Stickers? Why not do what we do - all cars in the cortege turn their headlights on. (No help for funerals held in the fog)


Besides the fact that you are an outstanding illustrator, you are an excellent writer! Your posts are always enjoyable!

Russer Butters

I'm sorry, but I must agree with what Owen said first time around, before apologising and calling you a jerk. I have never heard of anyone being allowed to break traffic laws except police, fire and medical personnel in ambulances. I confered with some others and got the same story. If a funeral precession knows it's going to go through some lights, it has to hire traffic officers to change the lights when they reach them. Just continuing through after it has turned red and not hiring in the people to do the job right makes them the jerks. I will make sure to ask some other people in the future, but as far as I know you are not the jerk, and really shouldn't be worried. They usually don't carry live crocodiles in funeral processions.


I must say that you deserve another salute for this post, Kevin. You have cured me of my rage against others as a motorist...

Now, when someone does something that seems to slight me on the road, I just chalk it up to the draft,
give them a nod,
and chuckle, "Thanks Kevin."
Thanks Kevin.


Get a BIGGER car. That should teach people some repect.

One day of driving in Bucharest and you'll be the toughest driver there, you wouldn't believe where your car can take you. Honestly. Next time you're in Romania, I'll take you for a spin to show you what living every second of the ride as if it were your last feels like.


Randallard - My pleasure! If I can reach just one other person, that's one more person who I can blame as a "Jerk" and they'll accept it without question!

Emil - That sounds scary! But... I could be tempted to ride with you, if we were going to get ice cream.


Oh my. And here I've been operating under the delusion I was the only one who could ever make such an inhumane error.

Having passed through a set of hedgerows and turning onto a four-lane road, I found myself at the back end of a line of automobiles all moving well below the posted speed limit. I made my move, and quickly passed 20 odd cars before I crested a hill and looked down the other side with the immediate realisation I was driving ALONGSIDE a cortege and was quickly outstripping the hearse!

Would stickers, signs, headlamps, econo-line vans, or traffic cops triggered my common-sense? Most likely. However, in the absence of all, I need no defence for my obvious and unintentional attempt at misanthropy. And as you kindly pointed out, all those mourners probably needed a convenient target for their anger and sorrow.

Don West

As we say here in the Deep South..."Bless your heart". :-)

Or, from a third person perspective...
"Bless his heart".

As in "Bless his heart, he caint help it."
"Bless his heart, he tries so hard don't he?"


I found your blog from Niff and Sutter's and this is a truly hiliarious story or real humor. I love this stuff!

I'll be back and you're on my blogroll now...bless your heart.


Rataxes - At least you were still driving legally... I was going to barrel right through them! In any case... we're now both inductees in the Brotherhood of Jerks.

Don - Well, welcome aboard! I can feel my heart performing holier acts already!

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