Walsh's Wonderings — Windshield wiper personality test

Robert F. Walsh
Robert F. Walsh

Everything you need to know about someone you can learn while watching them drive in the rain. More specifically, how they use their windshield wipers.

Some people turn on their wipers as if they’re paying by the minute. They’re perfectly content to allow water to transform the windshield into stained glass before they permit the first pass of the wipers. Passengers double-check their seat belts and ponder living wills as the car plunges forward as if driving through a lake. For these drivers, “visibility” is a relative term.

Others treat raindrops as rabbits they can’t allow to breed. At the first hint of precipitation, the wipers are called into action at the highest wiping speed. The “thump” of every arc pounds out a futile drumbeat accompanied by the telltale squeak of dry rubber on glass. These drivers view every sprinkle as a potential hurricane.

There are other ways in which drivers reveal themselves through their use of their wiper blades. The bug smear, for instance. Some people can drive for hours on the highway without ever feeling the need to wipe off those summertime bugs splashed across their windshields like a Pollock painting. It’s almost as if they’re leaving them to serve as a warning to others.

Others need to erase all vestiges of each of these tiny homicides until no trace remains. Gallons of windshield wiper fluid are sprayed in the name of clear vision despite the inevitability of another one splotching against the windshield as soon as it’s dried. They often attack bird droppings the same way, spreading the remains across the glass as if painting a fence.

These are usually the same people who leave their wipers on high during winter mornings because they hope the friction will melt the ice while waiting for the defroster to kick in. They drive like turtles, peering underneath the sliver of cleared glass rather than waiting the extra few minutes for the defrost to complete. Their missing ice scrapers are in the same place as those replacement wiper blades they so desperately need: the car parts store they keep forgetting to visit.

Most of us fall somewhere in between, the speed with which we attack the rain tied to the age of the wipers themselves. Those who regularly change their blades are often quick to use them. They also tend to lead happier lives; after all, is there anything more gratifying than that first rainfall after buying new windshield wiper blades?

Then there are those who haven’t changed their wipers since the Obama administration. They know every swipe will smear their windshields into a gray blur, so they tell you they can “see just fine” in that downpour despite the fact they just tried to park in the middle of a drive-thru. (Helpful hint: You can spot these drivers even when it’s not raining by the permanent smudge that remains from where the right wiper stops in the middle of its arc.)

However, nothing reveals more about drivers than their choice regarding the use of the adjustable speed option on the side of the stick. Stable, reasonable people use this as a way to adjust to the weather they’re facing. The lazy or criminally insane ignore this and stick to only the low or high settings. Avoid these people, folks. Even if they get you to your destination, they’ll drive you crazy along the way.

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