Getting irritated at other drivers
February 19, 2009 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Is it rational for me to become irritated when I see people with their windshield wipers on full speed when there is only a light drizzle? Does this irritate anyone else?
posted by ascetic to Society & Culture (59 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think it is rational. How does it affect you in any way at all?
posted by feathermeat at 9:39 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Some cars only have two wiper speed settings. Glacial and lightspeed. You shouldn't let it bother you too much.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:40 AM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

No not really rational. Although you could be angry at them for wasting energy, contributing to a more rapid increase in entropy in the universe, thereby hastening the heat death of the universe.

It would irritate me if it wasn't me doing it. But I hope you'll forgive me. We get so little rain here in Phoenix, that I can't help getting a little excited when there's a little drizzle.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 9:42 AM on February 19, 2009

No, it is not rational of you. Maybe their intermittents aren't working, or the windshield is in a dirty enough state that intermittent wiping leaves sight-obscuring streaks all over. Or maybe they're trying to drive you crazy. All of them. Together, plotting, planning your complete mental destruction. Yeah, that's it.
posted by Aquaman at 9:42 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It doesn't bother me.
posted by euphorb at 9:43 AM on February 19, 2009

Well, seeing as how four users told me that it is irrational... I should use this as an opportunity to learn something about my personality!
posted by ascetic at 9:47 AM on February 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

It bothers me if I'm in the car, and then I want to yell at people. But if I'm not in car, it doesn't bother me.
posted by jmd82 at 9:47 AM on February 19, 2009

It is human. Not rational. We get upset when we see the actions of people we subjectively perceive as dummies. If we don't see any of them around, we start making stuff up. So if one just sits around in one's home office and nothing really happens, one would click around on Metafilter and one could, for instance, get irritated at people who get irritated at other drivers who... (I'm not, but just saying)

Unless you're a passenger and the thing squeaks.
posted by Namlit at 9:48 AM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

This is an odd thing to be irritated about. Are a little control-freaky about other small things?

If this is the worst thing you see while driving, you have an enviable commute.
posted by sageleaf at 9:50 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

No, to both questions, here.

It's probably within the bounds of "normal" human behaviour (whatever that may be), if that's any comfort.
posted by Solomon at 9:50 AM on February 19, 2009

It does bother me, for one. Even though I know there are all the aforementioned possibilities (two speeds, dirty, blades in poor condition, etc.), it still nags at me when I see it. And I see it all the time given the lovely weather around these parts.

It's just a little water folks; you can still see through it. I promise. And no matter how furiously you try to remove it from your windshield, it isn't going to dissuade other water from hitting the glass.

But yes, it is irrational.
posted by ThyroidBob at 9:53 AM on February 19, 2009

Show me on the doll where the windshield wiper hurt you.

No, it's not rational, but it's not a big deal either your irritation doesn't cause you do act out either. Do you know why it bothers you?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

It depends on what you mean by irritated.

You might rationally, calmly note to yourself that it is unnecessary to use wipers at full speed in a light drizzle, but it would be strange to become irritated (impatient? annoyed? angry?) about something as mild and unimportant as that. Such irritation over nothing could be a symptom of some larger nuttiness, as they say in the clinics. How do you react when another driver does something more traditionally irritating such as cutting you off or suddenly braking in front of you or taking a parking spot you were waiting to use?

And do you keep a weapon in the car?
posted by pracowity at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2009

It irritates me slightly when I see it, in a "how do they *stand* that?" way. I find the movement of the wipers very distracting, much worse than looking through rain. I like a good coat of Rain-X and the wipers going as infrequently as possible. This works pretty well in Portland where we have light rain much more often than driving (ahem) rain.
posted by olecranon at 9:57 AM on February 19, 2009

The high speed setting is the only setting that works in my car.

This irritates me greatly, and I think that is perfectly rational.

However, I think it's irrational that it irritates you also.
posted by mesh gear fox at 10:00 AM on February 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

That *particular* irrational thing doesn't irritate me, but many others do: the receptionist's rambling stories, my roommate's television choices, the fact that so many people idle in parking lots for no reason, vanity license plates....the list goes on (and on).

We all have our pet peeves, and your pet just happens to be an unusual and exotic one. Like a cute and harmless koala bear.
posted by Pomo at 10:02 AM on February 19, 2009

I've noticed this from time to time. I wouldn't say it bothers me as much as makes me wonder why they're running their wiper blades at full speed when there's no rain falling. We've been experiencing scattered showers here lately. In a distance of just a couple miles you could be in a heavy downpour one minute and nothing the next. Perhaps they're keeping them on in anticipation of the next downpour. I don't know.

For me I like to use my wipers as little as possible, so it's just mildly curious to me as to why others do the extreme opposite when conditions don't call for it.

To each their own, I guess.

I will tell you one thing that does bug me, though. Those that don't use their headlights in very heavy rain or fog. It's truly a safety issue. It's not about seeing where you're going, it's about being seen by other drivers. And in CA it's the law that you use your headlights when you're using your windsheild wipers.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:03 AM on February 19, 2009

I agree it's irrational, but it also annoys the heck out of me - mainly when I'm in the car tho, and then I'll usually say something, and get the driver to switch to a lower setting.

When it's other cars I'm like olcecranon -
It irritates me slightly when I see it, in a "how do they *stand* that?"
(but also, it wears out the windscreen wipers much faster than needed. Don't they realize that!?)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2009

It bothers me sometimes, too—but I also run my windshield wipers that way myself at times. I had a small internal dialogue with myself about this yesterday, in fact, as I was driving home, windshield wipers going at medium speed in a light drizzle.

The question came into my mind: Why does the speed of their windshield wipers bother me? Because I think them fools for overreacting? Because I don't like the rhythm of the blades? Because it's not "cool" to use your windshield wipers in a drizzle? In my case, I think it's as much the last of those reasons as it is the first—because somehow I've internalized this idea of what's "cool" to the point where I almost begin to feel bad for people who send their wipers going full-tilt after virtually nothing. I wonder to myself if they're so unaware that they don't notice the wipers still going that fast. "Don't they see how dumb they look?" I wonder about the volume of their music. Then I think, after another few seconds, that it must be deliberate on their part. "They don't even mind being uncool!" Infuriating. I find myself almost cringing—the feeling is the same feeling a teenager feels walking with her parents: "Stop doing that! Someone might see you!" When I run the wipers that way myself, I sometimes even find myself peering at other cars self-consciously to find at least one other fool doing it with me—to somehow justify my use of a safety device.

When I thought about it that way, I felt silly and a little ashamed of myself, and came to what I think is a more adult conclusion: Sometimes people, myself included, need the windshield as clear as possible to see well and reduce glare from taillights and headlights, especially as it gets dark. Distractions can kill—people have died on the road just for glancing down to change the station on the radio. Would I deny others the safety of a clear windshield because the speed of their windshield wipers bothers me? No, I can't in good conscience say I would. I'd rather them be "uncool and annoying" than "distracted and swerving into my lane." And re: my own windshield wiper usage, it's simple: I'd rather be uncool than dead.
posted by limeonaire at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am an extremely irritable driver and I've never even thought of this.
posted by goethean at 10:09 AM on February 19, 2009

How do you even notice how fast other people's wipers are going? I can't say I've ever noticed another driver's wipers before in my entire driving life (15+ years).
posted by hydropsyche at 10:10 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I get mildly annoyed when I'm behind a driver in stop-and-go traffic and this happens (actually, it just happened this morning!). First of all, I hate driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic that crawls along slower than my car goes in 1st gear. I love driving stick but it can be a real pain in the butt in gridlock. Add to that all the little things that other drivers do that are outside of "normal" driving behavior and my ride in can get mildly annoying. It's little things like when drivers don't turn off their turn signals once they've switched lanes, have their wipers on full blast in light drizzle or erratically (and lightly) pump their brakes.

I just change lanes and try to find some good tunes on the radio.
posted by KathyK at 10:11 AM on February 19, 2009

Data Point: My wife finds this very thing infuriating.
posted by stubby phillips at 10:16 AM on February 19, 2009

A guy once accosted me in a parking lot for driving with my headlights on during the day, saying I was "wasting gasoline, people like you, you make me sick, haven't you heard of global warming?"

I didn't point out that he probably wasted more gasoline idling his car next to mine for a minute to yell at me than I used to power my headlights all week...
posted by dmd at 10:17 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whether or not it's irrational can of course be debated, but you're definitely not alone.
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:21 AM on February 19, 2009

Just to be clear, it is also irrational when your significant other is the one with the wiper blades on in their own car, since I WILL SET THEM ON ANY SPEED I DESIRE THANK YOU VERY MUCH, QUEEN OF THE HARPIES!
*anguished muffled sounds*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:21 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

i'd say it's less obnoxious than a dog-walker blowing a whistle during my morning walk but more obnoxious than kids taking seats on a train ride they didn't pay full fare for.

in all honestly i've never noticed it on other people's car, but my car has a back windshield wiper that's one speed and it drives me nuts that i can't make it wipe slower when its just drizzling not pouring.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 10:28 AM on February 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

This doesn't bother me with other cars, but if I'm in the passenger's seat and the driver has the windshield wipers on too fast, it bugs the sh*t out of me.

Oh, and it is 10 times worse if it's accompanied by a squeaky noise. I have gone so far as to reach over and turn the wipers down/off. I do not recommend doing this.

And yes, it is quite irrational.
posted by grateful at 10:37 AM on February 19, 2009

It bugs me too, mainly because it's indicative of a level of cluelessness that does, indeed, at least potentially affect me. I mean, if the driver doesn't even notice that his windshield wipers are banging back and forth right in front of his face, how is he going to notice when, say, the light turns green, or when the car in front of him makes a sudden movement, or a dog runs into the street? Full-speed wipers in a light drizzle usually means that the driver isn't paying attention, and that's worthy of your, and my, irritation.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:40 AM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've never been bothered about the wipers of other drivers.

When the rain varies in intensity, I find myself with the wipers on at full blast when I don't need them to be. When I'm driving by myself I don't realize it until I'm stopped at a traffic light and I notice the person behind me has their wipers on at a much slower speed than me. My fiancee will often remind me, when we're driving together, if the wipers are on too fast or too long.
posted by tommccabe at 10:44 AM on February 19, 2009

MrMoonPie: That's unfair, I leave them on because I have trouble seeing in the rain and I need all the help I can get. I have to pay full attention to the road and so ignore trivialities like the wiper settings otherwise I might miss upcoming danger signs like a small child chasing a ball into the street or a Virginia license plate on an SUV.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:45 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

This also bothers people I have been around, military types, who must notice small details or their life is in danger. You are tuned into noticing who is on the ball and who isn't because people who aren't paying attention (or who don't seem to be able to operate wiper controls properly) are probably going to cause a car accident somewhere along the line. I think a lot of people like you are in survival mode these days.

On the other side, I am one who does this. I think it is because I am a photographer and if one of my images has one dot on it, it won't be accepted by my agency. And then I won't get paid. And I'll starve to death. So I am over aware of my field of vision and I can't stand even one raindrop on the windshield when I am driving. It bugs my passengers to varying degrees.
posted by cda at 10:49 AM on February 19, 2009

I don't think it's particularly rational, but on the other hand I get pissed off at any number of things that you and others wouldn't find rational either. So I wouldn't worry about it, but please don't go into a road rage over it.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 11:03 AM on February 19, 2009

It bugs me too, mainly because it's indicative of a level of cluelessness that does, indeed, at least potentially affect me. I mean, if the driver doesn't even notice that his windshield wipers are banging back and forth right in front of his face, how is he going to notice when, say, the light turns green, or when the car in front of him makes a sudden movement, or a dog runs into the street?

For me, it's quite the opposite. I'm so focused on things that are actually relevant to driving safely that I tune out things that aren't. Seriously, I do that quite a bit when going from heavy downpour to light or no rain—completely forgetting that my wipers are on high speed and leaving them there, sometimes for upwards of several minutes. Although I do usually notice if they start squeaking. I'm sure that must seem incomprehensible to those of you who are "OMG big black things going back and forth constantly in front of my face!" but trust me, your experience is just as alien to me as mine is to you.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2009

I don't notice what speed other drivers have their wipers on. I am though iritated now that you have me thinking of wipers going at high speed. I'm imagining the frantic, jerky sound and sight of it and its is unpleasant. When I'm driving though, I have other things to focus my attention on.

But yeah, I don't think its rational. Even if it represents a real risk or inefficiency, its impact on you and your ability to do anything about it is pretty much non-existent. But then, people in general aren't rational about assessing risk.
posted by Good Brain at 11:07 AM on February 19, 2009

Perfectly normal. Like namlit said, it irritates you because you perceive other people doing something stupid. Its like me watching other people use functions on their computer with more clicks than is necessary.

I'd call my self a wiper miser, I pretty much always use the push to wipe function, never let it go automatic. My rationale? Wiping scratches your windshield, and also means you have to replace them earlier.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:13 AM on February 19, 2009

Rational? Hard to say. Others' usage don't bother me; but my own wipers, that's another story. I only use mine intermittently unless it's really pouring, this annoys and even frightens passengers sometimes, who don't seem to have my ability to focus beyond and ignore the raindrops standing on my windshield.

Is it an energy thing? Are you a green who fastidiously turns out the lights, unless there's somebody in the room? I remember a friend wondering, during the first energy crisis, if using her car's heater used more fuel than not. Do you think those fast wiper drivers are wasting fuel?
posted by Rash at 11:26 AM on February 19, 2009

No and no. I'm too busy being irritated at them for not turning on their headlights.
posted by Robert Angelo at 11:32 AM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

It is irritating. Maybe they're not dangerous drivers, but it's a a sign that they are probably not skillful drivers.

I would hate to be a cyclist on the road near a driver who cannot drive and correctly set a wiper speed at the same time.
posted by Zambrano at 11:41 AM on February 19, 2009

just. make. it. stop. squeaking. DEAR GOD THE SQUEAKING!!!!
posted by Kimberly at 11:46 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm using all of my 100 favorites in this thread. It's a little irrational. Yes to headlights+ wipers, which is the law in most US states, but is widely ignored.
posted by fixedgear at 12:23 PM on February 19, 2009

Imagine a completely dry, slightly dusty windshield with a wiper swiping across it. *SHUDDER* That makes me very uncomfortable; it could squeak, it might be destroying the blade, who knows what. I think my irritation at too-fast wiper blades is rooted in that feeling.
posted by losvedir at 1:05 PM on February 19, 2009

because it's indicative of a level of cluelessness that does, indeed, at least potentially affect me
it's a a sign that they are probably not skillful drivers

It is not indicative of any such thing. It's a sign that they prefer a higher speed setting on their windshield wipers than you happen to. (And it's not necessarily even a sign of that; one of our cars gives us three speeds: off, way too slow, and way too fast.)

I would suggest that being concerned about, or in fact even noticing, the speed of other drivers' windshield wipers is a sign that you don't have enough to worry about in real life so have to go looking for imaginary things to be bothered by.
posted by ook at 1:54 PM on February 19, 2009

Yeah this pisses me off too. It betrays a sort of thoughtlessness and a misunderstanding of physical principles.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:47 PM on February 19, 2009

Data point - my car does not even have intermittent wipers. This was a cost-saving measure on my part. So keep in mind the people you see may also be wishing for intermittent, but not have the ability. I have regular and high-speed, and rarely use high, but I'm thinking by "full-speed" you mean "non-intermittent".
posted by timepiece at 3:04 PM on February 19, 2009

Just to give another viewpoint. I know that sometimes I have to do a rapid windshield wiper wash (for dirt or similar), and if I car is oncoming when I do it, I irrationally think that they're laughing at me for using my wipers. Or at least I thought it was irrational, now I know that there are people like ascetic who are judging me and thinking I'm an idiot.
posted by saffry at 3:44 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is it rational for me to become irritated when I see people with their windshield wipers on full speed when there is only a light drizzle?
Irritation is never really rational, is it? I always think of it as a function of the lizard brain. This is a pretty small thing to become irritated about. Channel your negative emotions towards things you can change and that will help other people or yourself.

Does this irritate anyone else?

It doesn't irritate me. Can you really pay attention to all the myriad things you should be paying attention while driving and also pay attention to other people's wiper speeds? Try to stop thinking about this issue, if only for safety's sake.
posted by sid at 3:56 PM on February 19, 2009

Yeah, it can be irksome. But what's really drives me nuts is blinkers. Dammit, people! Turn them off when you're done with them! And hey, using them when you turn would be nice as well.
posted by deborah at 4:34 PM on February 19, 2009

My car has automatic wipers which seem to go into high-speed mode when there's a light drizzle and often don't come on at all when it's chucking it down. So I'm always having to manually switch them up and down which drives me mad.
Not as much as other drivers whacking their foglights on when it's not foggy, mind...
posted by etc at 4:43 PM on February 19, 2009

For all the folks who have never noticed another car/drivers wipers - it doesn't have to be an oncoming car. Have you never sat behind a car at a light? Just last night it was raining lightly here. I was stopped at a light, behind a car. The wipers on that car were on high speed. It didn't make me crazy, but I sure did notice it. I simply looked through their back window.
posted by fixedgear at 5:08 PM on February 19, 2009

I read your question aloud to my husband. He said: "If he/she is that observant, they need to get a job as a special agent for the FBI".

So, there you go.....

The wipers don't bother me....what really bugs me is drivers not signaling when they are going to make a turn.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 6:19 PM on February 19, 2009

It drives me nuts too. I can be cut off by the world's slowest driver who has had their blinker on for the last 20 miles and have no problem. But if I think they're using their wipers inappropriately, they suddenly become the biggest idiots in the world.

And yes, it's completely irrational.

But, it's really the only thing that bugs me when I'm on the road, so I call it a personality quirk and leave it at that. I don't see any reason for deep introspection on this- I am a weirdo who hates improper wiper use, and I'm not afraid to admit it.
posted by dogmom at 7:28 PM on February 19, 2009

Yeah, I'd say that's not a terribly rational irritation (no offense). It doesn't necessarily affect you, does it, if someone is using a faster wiper speed? If we were talking about something that could make the other driver less safe (say, not using windshield wipers when it's pouring or not having headlights on when it's bad weather or dark), I'd agree with you. Or, my pet peeve is when you're driving at night and drivers coming towards you don't turn their headlights down and there's that moment where you completely can't see.

As far as the particular scenario that irks you, you don't necessarily know what the visibility is like in that car. As long as the other driver isn't doing anything to make themselves a hazard to themselves and others, I don't think minor things like this should really be of concern.

I guess to make one positive comment: at least you're being observant enough to notice other cars and what the drivers are doing. I do hope that you're looking at the road and signs, etc., too. If you are, then it really is great that you're paying attention.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:58 PM on February 19, 2009

Full-speed wipers in a light drizzle usually means that the driver isn't paying attention

I think that's a huge illogical leap to make. And, no, the only time you absolutely know the driver isn't paying attention is when they're more interested in texting or talking on their cell phone than operating the vehicle.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:03 PM on February 19, 2009

Having been driving for about 30 years, I've never noticed wiper speed. A couple things: if the blades are worn out, they'll more smear light rain (+ crud in the rain, crud from the road) around than remove it so it can be a rational choice if people have been slothful in replacing blades.

(Having lived in areas with lots of light rain, I replaced my blades a couple times a year. They were always still decent when I replaced them, but when they're new, there is a big difference with drizzle (and crud).)

Those who have spoken of energy use--'specially the person with the global-warming rant... they run off the alternator. In terms of energy use, it ain't doing diddly.
posted by ambient2 at 8:47 PM on February 19, 2009

Nothing's worse than some idiot driving a Neon with fourteen pounds of air in one of their front tires furiously trying to make the rain go away as they block the left lane. It bugs the hell out of me. It speaks of amateurishness, of your typical block head who practically ruins every road with their lack of awareness and their pedestrian, sloppy approach to one of the most dangerous, serious, and frequently confrontational forms of social interaction: if they can't see out of their windows, what does that say about them as a driver? Have they neglected the maintenance on their car; or, even worse, do they not understand how an important switch functions on their car or how rain typically behaves? All of this goes through my head when I see one of these idiots, and that can be momentarily distracting before I pass them.
posted by luckypozzo at 9:50 PM on February 19, 2009

I have the opposite irritation.

I hate it when I'm a passenger and it's raining and the driver sets the wipers at the minimum speed possible for maximum wiping. So there comes a point when the window is covered in droplets and you can barely see outside and I think we're going to die and then "swish" the wiper finally rescues us and I can breathe a sigh of relief until the droplets start building up again.
posted by like_neon at 2:44 AM on February 20, 2009

I ride my motorcycle in the rain enough that I forget that I have wipers on my truck. This apparently unnerves my passengers.
posted by _Skull_ at 12:49 PM on February 20, 2009

This might have been suggested upstream, but I haven't read all of the responses posts yet.

I think when small things irritate us like this, it is sometimes a reflection of something deeper that would be worthy of our irritation, if there was an actual connection. For example, it used to bug the daylights out of me when my mom would whistle while she worked when I was growing up. I wasn't sure why this was at the time, and I realized later that it was probably an issue of getting conflicted messages from here in regards to the psychological health of our relationship. I often felt there was an unresolved tension in the house because of her issues, and the whistling seemed to suggest that she was unaware of the pain that she was causing, or didn't care. That is what actually bothered me, not someone whistling.

Of course, I could be totally off the mark here. But I think this thing happens more often than we realize, and it's worth asking if things that seem like minor irritations have deeper connections.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:47 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older Help a Drywallhanger understand money   |   In The Zone Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.