The Dicta Smith - Unwritten Rules of the Road

Hello, lovers! I haven’t posted in a while and it is my determination to only bring you the best I can out of my feeble brain. Bear with me as I struggle through something well all know and love: Driving.

It was my intention to actually write a book and publish it on this, namely one on Seattle drivers. Who does that anyway? Not I, got no connections! So, I’ll spill my valuable insights on this and look forward what you think of these ideas. 

Back in the early days of flight, a gentleman German pilot, Hauptmann (Captain) Oswald Boelcke, wrote a short discourse on how to stay alive while being a fighting man in an aircraft. The Dicta Boelcke, it turns out, has stayed relevant from its debut in 1916 through today.

In my brain over a couple decades driving in Seattle I have written what I consider the Dicta Smith. The most difficult part about this for me was trying to constrain myself to only a list of ten items because our traffic, what with its retinue of timid, cell phone (self) obsessed drivers leaves a few more slots to be desired. Yes, Boelcke kept his to 8 but he could never envision the soulless Toyota Camry or various models of Subaru.

iu.jpeg

You’ve been stuck here before

You’ll notice it now.

With that I present to you the Dicta Smith. I’d love to hear feedback — particularly if you are an apologist or wish to defend any of the behaviors I find road rage inducing. 

 The Dicta Smith 

1. Use your turn signal every time. Adjust and use your mirrors.

Yes, I crammed two obvious items into one section. Listen, you selfish neutron, you are not the only person on the road. Using a turn signal is to allow other accommodating drivers into our world, namely one in which the idea is to keep traffic moving.  If you have no idea how to adjust your mirrors for driving (no, you don’t) you may find me here to explain it.

2. Drive like you are following yourself and you have somewhere to go. Otherwise keep right.

These are not posted in any particular order of importance because if they would be, I’d put this at number one. If you drive and can’t wrap your head around this idea, it is just time to give up and Uber or take the bus. Your contribution to driving culture, hell getting anywhere, just isn’t enough.

3. Yield your lane to a car overtaking you regardless of speed. You're not a safety officer.

In Washington State the law is to keep right except to pass. If someone is overtaking you in your lane, it is not your job to modulate their speed, be a police officer or administer judgement. It is merely to move to the right preferably as soon as you can. Likewise, if you are merely pacing traffic in the left lane, get the heck to the right so you can get back to FaceTiming. We implore you. I suppose you can feebly turn your brights on after the driver goes by to “prove a point” but frankly we’re not looking in our rear view mirrors because we’re driving forward.

Here is a list of states and their laws regarding Keep Right. If per chance you look up your state and it does not have one — just help move your people ahead about 80 years and practice doing it now. The way some laws in other states are going you may need to GTFO of yours sooner or later anyway.

4. Do not move into a lane to your left (i.e., cut off another car) unless current velocity allows greater velocity going forward.

Another no brainer. After you’ve adjusted your mirrors correctly (see #1) use the brain the Universe provided you. You are born knowing calculus even if you’ve never taken a class. The same thing that allows you to throw a ball and get even remotely close to your intended target is the same instinct you should use when looking to your left and whether to move into that lane. If your Camry can’t hot foot it enough to get up to speed, simply wait for that car to pass before moving over.

You’re not the only car on the road.

5. Honk at people looking down at their cell phones or not paying attention to the road.

Here is where it gets funny because this unwritten rule of road is strictly illegal. With that warning and if you’ve mastered the “love tap” of a car horn by all means shock these people back to the task at hand. Chances are the life you safe may be your own, which on a cosmic scale is worth a few percent more than people who can’t put driving first.

6. If you are first at a green light your only job is to set off as quickly as possible.

This is a rejoinder to #5. There is zero excuse for the first person in line to lose even a tenth of a second to their vanity and cellphone usage. In fact if you’re first in line you must for the sake of the 4th car in line act as if you care that they’re on the road fo the same reason as you: to make it to a destination regardless of whose birthday it is on Facebook at the moment.

7. Eject nothing from your car. This includes all substances - littering is of poor character.

This is another holdfast rule from most everywhere I have driven. If your state has a law that states otherwise, I’d love for you to show it to me because I may detour through there on my next road trip just to say I did. That 60s feeling of just tossing a Coke bottle out the window is so bad it must feel good.

8. One ejecting anything from their vehicle is open immediately to retaliation from vehicles behind.

So here in a second instance I have done you wrong again. Just above you see I told you that this is illegal. Well, according the Dicta Smith you may fire if fired upon. Just be smart about it. Maybe a pink eraser or a wadded up paper ball that won’t damage the cigarette flinging Ford F-350. The point of it all is to let the driver know you caught him and that you do not appreciate ash in the cabin of your clean machine.

To tie it all together: Check your mirror before overtaking, avert your eyes completely from your Galaxy 10, reach for your nonlethal projectable and make your righteous move. Aim for center mass (the hood or the windshield) as they are both built to take much worse than you’re dishing out.

The target driver will be apoplectic that you’d dare to live up to his standards of littering and auto bombing but I think, especially here, if good old Boelcke were here today he just may understand the fight fire with fire method. Of course, he’d prefer that you turn into the enemy but we do not have that third dimension he had in the sky. Playing chicken over a cigarette butt in your car is hardly sport. Also, even if you fail to overtake the attacker you can seek solace in the fact you have kept one less cigarette butt off the ground. They are well known bird killers and we all know only sick children should be shooting those birds with their BB guns.

9. It is never possible to know too much about what is going on around you.

This would be a trick question to anyone after Generation Z. Upon reading this I imagine an agglomeration of millennials reaching straight to their phones to determine how far above sea level they are. No, no, no. It is easier than that! Head up, over the dash and out the windows! Look left, then right, then left again and take a look at who may be crossing the street. Look to see where the Toyota Prius overdrove the stop line and is half blocking a direction and refusing to back up. You’ve now just armed yourself to navigate this intersection!

10. While using a horn in a non-emergency is illegal most places, publicly shaming a poor/inattentive driver is worth the risk.

I was going to tie this in with cell phone shaming but cell phone use is an epidemic that hurts all of us so I gave that a stand alone (remember, just one or two *love taps* to shock those flouting everyone’s time and the law). If you do it correctly they may not even know who exactly honked at them or believe it was just a sound on their hip hop.

Number Ten, however, lends itself to what I call “laying on the horn” type action. Again, this is illegal but still stands as an unwritten rule for a reason. I once traumatized a driver by laying on my horn for a good 3 minutes after she nearly wrecked our cars. Three minutes is just a bit less than Van Halen’s Panama which, come to think of it, is about driving too. At first she was quite flippant but I assure you after 3 minutes of getting on the onramp, merging and driving at 60MPH for another minute this person may very well may be being treated for PTSD still today.

If risking Car Horn Induced Traumatic Stress Disorder (CHITSD) is used properly, there is the smallest of chances that if someone finds they missed their turn, next time they will simply take the next exit, spend 60 seconds and circling back rather than risk swapping paint.

So there we go, fellow motorists. How have you sinned recently? What are you doing to do to change your evil ways? Let us know in the comments or you may email me at adam.c.smith@me.com and maybe I’ll post your thoughts in a followup blog.

As always thanks for reading.

Chevy Guy Drives A Ford

Well, I am a General Motors nut. More specifically, I really love Chevrolets. I've owned many and my latest one is very nice - but someone needs it more than I do so I've gifted it.


2000 Mustang with giant tires

My ride is a 2000 Mustang. My best friend won an auction ($350!) and isn't driving it so I'm taking care of it. It is a 2000 Mustang 5-speed. It has a 3.8L V6 - not the V8. It does not make it less fun to drive!

The Mustang really reminds me of my first car. Long hood, snarling and actually shifting the gears brings back memories of my teenage years driving the mean streets of Renton and Kent.






The modifications are a short throw shifter and some bad ass 18" wheels with very low profile tires. We have a couple superchargers that we've bought - can't decide to use the roots type or the vortec. I'm including a blurry pic of them - and I'll report back.

The 3.8 V6 is already a torque monster - easily spinning the tires in first and second gear and the Mustang is light. The big meaty tires will help get more power down and I'm interesting in seeing how the "huffer" will add power. Bigger fuel injectors are already done so we're ready to bolt on a re-program.



Here is a little video of the short throw shifter 1st-2nd shifter at work.



I didn't know how much delight I'd get from driving this rig, and I'm having a blast! 



On Saturday I got on the road around 10PM and carved up I-90 just to get some fun driving in. The roads were empty and the twists were a blast. 





I drove to Cashmere and back - and on the way back I used ALL of the highway! Nobody to worry about at 2AM!

So, if you're an adult that misses the good old days - they're still here. Go find yourself a nice used car and get driving!





Summer of '93

Summer, 1993

I had just started a new full time job, freshly out of high school and attending community college. I was hired on at Denny's Chevron on 192nd and Benson Highway in Renton, WA. At this time I'd call myself about "shade tree" as far as hands on mechanics go but an above average understanding in things mechanically related.

My boss was "Wes" and working for him, there was nothin' that couldn't be done. What he lacked in tact and reading ability he made up for in wizard-like mechanic ability. He rebuilt Rochester Quadrajets ™ or Carter Aluminum Four Barrels (AFBs) hell, any carburetor in 45 minutes. If you have never seen, heard of or worked on a carb, look one up: They're complex.

Under Wes' tutelage I became not quite a master mechanic, but became an accomplished mechanic who was instilled with fearlessness that only true gear heads develop, minus taking classes. I went on to be the "Van Man" as vans are a pain in the royal ass to do tune ups on, generally. Their engines require contortions that Wes just wasn't gonna put up with, the lanky 20 year old me grudgingly knew when a van pulled up - Wes' eyes sparkled and he'd smile at me with his missing tooth prominently... I was gonna bleed.

My eye got better at knowing how much to bite off one Sunday. The shop was closed Sundays - I was working so that meant my '62 Chevy 2-DR street racer and classic was in the garage but it didn't need nuthin' done, minus friends and fellow weekend road warriors stopping by to talk shop or ask for a hand.

My 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-Dr and a pal I sold it to.. waaaaaaaah!

And out of the blue, and rare for a Sunday, a guy called in from outta state and was desperate. He needed a new water pump on his Chevy Truck or he was stuck in Washington! Well, he may think he didn't want to be stuck here but I sure as heck wanted to help him get his California butt back to California.

"Shops Closed," I told him. But he was desperate.

He told me it was a V-8 and I thought, "oh hell, I can do that."

So I told him to bring it in and give me three hours. At that time I could swap a V8 water pump in 30-45 minutes if pressed so that'd be no sweat.

He walked in, handed me the keys and off he went!

I was confident. All the tools, great air powered stuff, lifts, disposal, anything you could want!

I pulled the truck in and popped the hood and dove in. Radiator and fans, pullies, etc off. And I see the water pump. It's odd lookin. It's a diesel!!

I had never done more than an oil change on a diesel motor - and a water pump on a diesel Chevy 350 is much more time consuming and involved than a gasoline Chevy V8.

But I was proud and fearless. Yeah, I was sweating now now, between the summer heat and the dawning realization of the task that I just bit off was more than I could chew.. and definitely above my pay grade. Due to my childhood I knew it was on me and there was no internet, no phone line and nobody home to help me.

I was alone at the gas station half way through a job on a Sunday. Real quiet. Only success or humiliation could result.

I got in my car, locked the place up (it was open 24/7), and bombed down to the auto parts store. I think I turned a 13.1 ET as I banged home top gear and the roller rockers on the hood of my 283 with 327 cranked hotted up motor responded to my needs and at the same time soothed me with its silky smooth power.

Long story short is I got it all together, test drove it, and it all ran fine. I only charged the guy what I quoted (about 1/3 a diesel job) and off he went. I lived weeks in some pretty deep anxiety waiting for the long distance phone call that I screwed something up.

And some nights, like tonight, I wonder where the truck is that I most certainly over torqued the bolts and Permatex Blacked™ the water pump back on to and smile. I'd bet $100 he never had another water pump problem. That's the Smith Quality Guarantee™!

This story popped back into my head as roughly two weeks ago I was woke from dead sleep to hear a V8 being broken in about 3AM. It was revved loud and long and there's only one man on the hill I can think of that'd have ability, balls and "I don't give a shit" attitude is Wes. I'd bet $100 it was him. There is a art to mechanics. Yes, it is technical but when you can hear every part moving, time your beast by laying your hands on the distributor - not unlike using the Force instead of the timing light - it is as close merging with a mechanical, non-biological entity that I've experienced. Including Cortana, Siri, or whatever half-assed assistants we're stuck with today.

I smile thinking that. But if it was just any dumb ass that woke me up with breaking a new camshaft in, miles and miles away with extended 5,000 rpm, uncorked exhaust revs, I wanna beat him.

Pulled off a Hail Mary Christmas mechanical miracle before? Tell me about it in the comment box!

The Dual Fart Can - Inept Driver Conundrum

I'd like to start this out with some bonafides and because my life is an open book, share a story or two. I will then explain my exasperation at completely incomprehensible loudness of the slowest vehicles on the streets, peoples inept driving skills and offer some solutions. Most of them will be legal.

Yeah, I may sound like an old curmudgeon and my street racing days are waaaaaay behind me. My fast cars all sold for an "adult" modern sedan that is not exactly slow, but definitely not fast. 

My first car was a 350 cubic inch V8 (that's 5.7L to you, kid), 4BBL carb, dual exhaust, M-22 4-speed Camaro Rally Sport. I bought it before I had even learned to drive a stick - I taught myself. The clutch was non-hydraulic assist like cars today - just a big ass heavy spring that probably was more work out than I see most people do when they're working out their legs. 
With a 3.55:1 rear diff the car had a perfect mix of launch and legs. Redline in 1st was 60MPH - and the Hurst T-handle shifter made the 2nd - 3rd shift a fast, pleasant "snap" and into the wiggle of power coming back on in a blink.

I have no idea why my mom let me buy this car for my first car but bless her soul because this car is what led to my understanding of how the internal combustion engine worked - from start to finish. 

So yeah, in high school I worked 40 hours a week for an "honest" job but after midnight was when I made most of my cash. The job was merely a cover for my avocation of a little tomfoolery while rock music blared out the windows and the CB used to find where the action was that night.

Now, onto my curmudgeonly post. Please, suffer along with me  aswe go down the list of modern lack of disregard for neighbors and fellow citizens ears and peace and quiet.

1. The Fart Box car. These cars are, when you hear them, cars whose bark is not only merely worse than their bite, they are toothless except to act as should be noise citations. Legal solutions are to just hope they fix their car. Options are to share your stash of potatoes with them and cram one up their tail pipe any and every time you have the chance. We need to get proactive on this.

2. The Fart Box + Bad Driver car. These vehicles are much the same as above except the person "driving" the car has no idea how a powertrain works and either doesn't care about the longevity of their engines or purposefully drives their Annoyance in a manner that at all times allows it to make the most useless noise it can at all times. 

I must go in depth on the second one. If you have a fast car, even if it is loud, it should leave ear shot quickly. If you can still clearly hear a car as it shifts from 2nd - 3rd and until that redline, you know that most tow trucks could pull the car faster on their hooks than the car can move itself. Regardless, the cherry on top of the shit sundae for these Car and Drivers are that when they hit 45 and are redlined in 3rd, for some reason they do not upshift. Not even one gear! 
  • This is bad for your engine.
  • This is bad for gas mileage.
  • This is bad if you drive a car like this and run into the wrong guy at the wrong time.
Motorcycle drivers, particularly Harley Davidson riders (whom I consider newbs or just don't understand the point of driving a Harley) lately seem to have a strain of this ignorance/disregard or lack of couth. 

No matter if you are four wheels or two, when you drive a manual and are not in peril or racing for money or pride, we can hear you anyway. Trust us, you drive a Noise Generator and WE HEAR YOU. There is no reason to drive at redline for 30 seconds or rap out your car when you turn a corner onto a short/residential street.

Here is how, if you happen to be in this group of drivers or riders, to drive with some decorum and class:
  • Short Shifting. You probably have never heard of this, or just don't understand that low RPM driving is cool. Short Shifting is merely shifting up a gear without redlining your ride. Yes, you have 6 or 8k RPM but you needn't use them all when motoring. Instead, simply shift up a gear at 2-3k, and when you reach the speed limit upshift to  just short of under-revving your engine. 
Doing this primarily raises your driving IQ and the admiration of neighbors and fellow motorists as it shows you actually do have control and knowledge of your vehicle.  It also allows your engine (which even if you drive a cheap, base model Fart Box) such things as it starting the next time you want to drive it. Also, not blowing up as you drive it, more cash at hand and road rage avoidance, that is what Metal is for.

Now, kids, don't be offended by what I'm writing here. I get it. I was raised by a single mother and learned all of this (much more quickly than you have apparently, but I did) bit by bit. I love that you love cars. I love that you don't mind risking a ticket or wrapping your car around a tree at 2AM! Just do it at the outskirts of town and pass it on to the next generation so if you're fortunate enough to not kill yourself and live past this part of your life, you may have a fairly quiet sleep after midnight.

I am here, as always, as your Zen master if you have questions on how to win street drag races and street racing etiquette. Please feel free to post questions or comments below or, if you really do need help or have questions because you are losing at the drags for either psychological reasons, your car is slower or for any reason - you can always email me directly. I can help you sort this out and with just a few tips can have you giving faster cars hell.

Thanks for reading and NEVER let them look under your hood.