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A car pass a flooded section of the Lakeshore Blvd. in downtown Toronto. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
A car pass a flooded section of the Lakeshore Blvd. in downtown Toronto. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Road Sage

What's with those drivers who love to soak pedestrians? Add to ...

I was hit a while back and did not see it coming. I was walking along the street on a wet, rainy day, minding my own proverbial business, when – splash! A wave of ice cold, salty slush water covered me.

My jacket was soaked, my pant legs drenched and there was nary a blow dryer or a spare change of clothes to be found. The perpetrator, who was driving a pickup truck, was gone before I could identify him.

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I’d just played the Dousing Game.

The appropriate response would have been anger, but I am rather sanguine when it comes to the Dousing Game. Every time I get hit, a part of me knows, karma-wise, I’m due.

You see, as a teen growing up in our nation’s capital, my friends and I found it funny to spend the occasional March afternoon ripping around the suburbs intentionally dousing unsuspecting citizens. We’d see a group of folks waiting at a bus stop before which sat an eight-inch pool of slushy water and we’d gain just enough speed, so that when we drove through it, the force would create a miniature tidal wave that would coat the entire lot. So, what I’m saying is that every time I get hit, I essentially have it coming.

But what about the rest of you? March is prime dousing season. We get warm days and more rain. What experts call “bad grading” on our roads prevents water from draining properly and instead it forms dwarf lakes alongside our sidewalks. The stage is set.

Water plus tire plus velocity equals you arrive at the big meeting looking like you peed your pants. You’ll get doused and show up for that big date looking like an extra from the reality show Deadliest Catch.

One of the unique characteristics of the Dousing Game is that, if you are a driver, you will at one time or another, play each role.

We’ve all driven by a pedestrian, not realizing that there is a murky black loch lurking by the curb, and doused him or her unintentionally. We look in our rear-view mirror and see the poor soul trying to shake himself dry, cursing in aggravation and think, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I just did that.”

Conversely, we’ve all been on the receiving end. As we stroll along, consumed by our daily thoughts, we neglect to see the watery hazard beside us and suddenly we’re immersed in freezing slush. Wiping the brine from our brows, we curse the automobile that did the deed as it drives out of view and think, “Oh my God, I can’t believe they just did that.”

Nobody really wins the Dousing Game, but it’s fair to say that those who get soaked are by far on the losing side (at least a guilty conscience is dry). The villains in all this are drivers who are oblivious or simply don’t care about the chances they may spray someone with a wave of water.

These are the same sort of people who ignore all other forms of bad behaviour behind the wheel. They tailgate, they speed and yet they somehow also find the time, when they need to send a text or send an e-mail, to drive 70 km/h in the passing lane. We have a word for these folks – one I’m not allowed to print in The Globe and Mail. All I can say is that this word really fits. These folks are totally that word.

Perhaps the only way to beat the Dousing Game is to lead by example. When you’re driving on a city street or suburban stretch on a mushy rainy March afternoon, keep in mind that baby-sized lakes line the roads. Slow down a tad as you roll through one. Try not to soak pedestrians. If you are a walker, keep an eye out for aquatic hazards. Walk a yard from the curb if you can. Keep calm and carry an umbrella.

And if you’re a teenager who is predisposed to pranks, and you’re itching to roll by and soak a stranger, keep an eye out for me. By my count, I’m around nine more dousings away from breaking even in the karma department. And if you’re driving past a bus stop at one in the morning on a freezing night and feel the urge to roll down the window and cry, “The bus isn’t coming!” at somebody – look me up. I used to do that, too.

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