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Who am I to judge? I'm the person driving next to you

Judge not lest ye be judged.

I'll admit it. Most of my church learning got left in the pew when I was a kid, but that particular line (from Matthew; I had to look it up) stuck because I cannot fathom how anyone could ever live up to it. If you have an ounce of sense, how can you possibly not process information your brain is feeding you and make a decision about what you see in front of you? Is it judgmental? Sure it is.

Take today. I watched the car ahead of me carry right on through not one, but two stop signs. Didn't even pause. Were it not for the sharp reaction of three other vehicles hitting their brakes and a pedestrian with the reflexes of a cat, I would have seen a horrible collision. Or perhaps two. Because I do not know the age or gender of the driver, I am judging like Lady Justice. Except for the blindfold part when I'm driving.

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I've been in one of those low-speed collisions. The kind that don't seem to be particularly bad, all things considered. The people stand outside their cars bickering as they judge each other and drivers gingerly go around the broken glass all the while thinking, "I'm so glad that isn't me."

Except that time it was me, as a woman ran a red light and plowed into me. As we stood around bickering, she admitted she was on her way to her car dealership to get some touch-up paint from her last accident. I stared at her blankly, then immediately checked the idiot box on the judgment sheet I have in my head. And the next day when I couldn't move my neck, I judged her even more. And now, a decade later, still suffering the lingering effects of that dinged up neck, I am still judging her. Sorry, Matthew.

I judge you when I see your car all dinged up and opt not to park next to you. I presume you don't take care of your own belongings and can hardly be expected to give a damn about mine. I know in urban settings dings are almost inevitable, but I still steer clear of abused cars. I get nervous if a carful of little kids all look prepared to kick open their doors – into the car beside them. I'm sure I should forgive them for they know not what they do, but I don't, and they should.

I profile parked cars like I profile people in line at customs: if you're heading over the border in a 1969 VW bus with 13 people in it, I'm choosing another line.

I judged the guy on Highway 401 the other day that had furniture strapped to the roof of his compact car with a series of ropes that looked like they'd been macraméd at Brownie camp. Drivers from all lanes were rushing to get away from him as the wind kept threatening to make the whole flapping mess airborne. We needn't have worried, however, as I saw his passenger fiercely holding onto one corner. This is actually the best trick ever, to watch. I can hear the conversation: "I thought you said you had it!" Physics is for kids, apparently.

I'm actually quite laid back on most issues. I defend speed limits that extol "going with the speed of traffic" no matter how many times readers take offence to a writer admitting they were going 120 km/h. If journalists of any stripe don't tell you the truth, how much weight does their opinion really hold? It is not my aim to be perfect; it is certainly my aim to be honest. I believe in a reasonable approach to most things, and understand that one person's measure is not likely to match my own. I have an advice column on my website, and learned long ago that in many matters, Matthew was right: you never know, so shut yer yap unless asked.

No, I rarely judge you when you do something simply because it is something I would not do. I judge you when you do something stupid or dangerous that may kill me. I don't care what kind of car you drive, or what colour it is, or if you have junk hanging from your rear-view mirror. Actually, I judge that one a little bit; don't hang stuff from your rear-view mirror. I may wonder what use a box of Kleenex is to you on the back dash, but I don't judge you for putting it there.

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Our roads are a mess and there are many who will religiously cling to their right to be wrong. I can't stop them, but if they put everyone else at risk, you better believe I'm going to judge them.

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About the Author
Drive, She Said columnist

Lorraine Sommerfeld began writing when she was about to turn 40, because it was cheaper than a red convertible. Her weekly column Drive, She Said, while existing in the automobile section, is a nod to those of us who tend to turn the key rather than pop the hood. More

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