Driving Peeves

When you get to my age in the US, assuming you haven't lived most of your life in a city where you have ready access to public transportation, you've probably been driving more than half your life. You probably have a love-hate relationship with the practice as well, though that's not as universal an experience. The love part for me was captured very nicely by Stephen Dunn in his poem "The Sacred", which closes this way: "how far away / a car could take him from the need // to speak, or to answer, the key / in having a key / and putting it in, and going." When I was a teen living in Slidell, that's what a car meant--a bike could take me anywhere I needed to go during the day, but not in the rain (which was ever-present in the summer) or at night, or anywhere beyond the city proper; the highways in and out of town didn't have paved shoulders and the drivers weren't exactly bike-friendly.

The other love part comes from my multiple drives across the country, whether because of moves or just for vacations. Amy and I have seen mind-numbingly beautiful sights on our trips--Utah may be the most gorgeous state in the continental US, by the way--and there's a peace that comes from the long drives, the miles eaten away, the conversations, that can't be replicated by plane or train (though trains come closer). The potential for discovery is much higher on those sorts of trips than any other in my experience.

But then there's commuting, and the delicate dance one has to perform with a bunch of Brawndo-fueled, distracted and disgruntled rage machines on I-95 and the surrounding streets. Very often, it seems, vehicles become weaponry, turn signals become challenges to one's parentage, and traveling at less than ten miles over the speed limit in the HOV lane is an insult which cannot be tolerated.

It's the last that aggravates me the most, and which spawned this post. We drive to Boca a couple of days a week, and we do it early enough that we're catching the first moments of rush hour, but we're able to bypass it mostly because we're two in the car, which gives us access to the HOV lane. The speed limit on the stretch we travel is 65, but I routinely go 75 unless there's a backup in the regular laves--more than once I've had someone jump into the HOV lane and had to jam on the brakes because they miscalculated how quickly they could accelerate. But 7 out of every 8 trips, I'd estimate, I'll find myself with someone--this morning it was the driver of a Porsche Cayenne--crawling up my tailpipe for miles on end. "So just move over and let them by" you say. I can't. There's car-to-car traffic to my right and about 10 yards at most of follow space ahead of me. Even if I move over, there's nowhere for them to go, except up the next person's tailpipe.

The really ridiculous thing is that because I drive such a small car--a 1995 Saturn SC2--the people behind me generally know that I'm not holding up production, that I am keeping pace with the traffic around me. They can often see that better than I can from their lofty perches in their SUVs. Maybe they just don't see me down there, or maybe they don't realize just how close they are to my rear bumper. Or maybe they're just Brawndo-fueled assholes who resent having to share the roads with anyone. I really don't know.

What I do know is that they make the already stressful driving experience worse. Give me a grandpa doing 53 with the left blinker stuck on any day--I'd rather deal with that than with the pressure to move over so the-most-important-driver-in-the-world can move forward an extra 30 feet and make someone else's life miserable.

So what is it that most angers you on the roadway? What increases the likelihood of your middle-finger flying of its own accord?

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