Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Let's just agree to disagree

I know I can never convince anyone to see things my way on this score, but I want to get my position off my chest. No, that metaphor is not just mixed, it's contorted. I want to express my view; I seek understanding, even without concurrence.

The speed limit is the law. It's not a suggestion. And it's not a plot to inconvenience you. It's about making the roads work for everyone. "Everyone" includes the local residents, the merchants, folks in the area for the first time, older folks, everyone!

I think there are two main reasons for speeding. One is to make up lost time. The other is just cuz it feels so dang good to zip along like that.

Right, you're late. I'm not late (well, I probably am, but let's set that aside), the other cars around you aren't late (well, they probably are too, but let's work for now with the theoretical "you're late.") It's not anyone else's problem that you are late. It's not anyone else's fault. ("Yes, it is. It's the fault of that guy who was driving so slow on Gibson!" No, we'll come to that.) You need to make all your efforts to be on time before you get into your car. You need be realistic about the amount of time you allow to arrive at your destination. Realism includes taking into consideration drivers who may exercise their right to drive more slowly than you want them to.

And how important is that lateness, anyway? Take a moment, breathe, and estimate the actual cost you are willing to incur to achieve timeliness. Whatever the costs are, you weren't willing or able to incur them before you got into the car. Now that you are in the car, you're asking me to help finance the cost for you. The costs can be quite high. Speeding tickets come to mind. But that's too obvious. So banal. You've already calculated that. It's the hidden costs I'm talking about.

Think about what you are expecting people who have nothing to do with your destination or your timing to pay. The people who live on the streets along your route have to live with you zipping down them. Think of your own street. Do you notice the difference between a driver going by at 25 mph vs 35 mph? Do your kids? Does your cat? Think of your car. If it happens to be parked on the street and a car cruising along at 25 makes some sort of error and hits your fender, you're going to have a salvagable car. He'd have more of a chance to correct and not even hit your car than if he is going 35, or more. We could start with the toddlers-waddling-into-the-street scenarios, but let's not. Let's just note that the speed of the cars traveling by affects the quality of life for the humans on that street.

People who live on busy streets have to accept the traffic. But if you live on a street where the speed limit is 40, should you have to accept 55? Sadly, yes, you do, because the reality is that that's what drivers do -- they speed. But if the driver stopped to think about what they are doing to humans they are passing, would they reconsider? Would you, if you were that driver?

There's the increased cost of gas. The slower you go, the less gas you use. But that's another one that you've already got in your mental cacluation, at some level of consciousness, you already know that. There's the increase in air pollution. That one's there too, but at a deeper level. Obviously, if you are using more gas, you're spurting out more exhaust.

In short, I say spend less time on your hair. Allow more time for driving.

"It's boring to just putz along on the freeway."

There is something primordial about our physical response to acceleration. Most of us just want to keep going faster and faster. It makes settling into cruising speed almost uncomfortable. And to decelerate isn't almost uncomfortable, it is uncomfortable. Driving fast is more exciting, more exhilarating, more challenging.

I can't respond to the exhilarating claim, that's just physics. But if you are up for a challenge, you just try driving the speed limit on your local highway. Actually, you'd better not. It's not safe to drive significantly slower than most cars on the freeway. But try driving somewhat slower. Try letting someone be in front of you and just stay behind them at a safe distance. Maybe even a truck if it's not too stinky.

Now you've got a challenge! Other drivers are going to despise you. You've got to maintain a steady speed, stay out of the way of lane bobbers and weavers, and endure the disrespect of everyone. Surviving that and remaining calm can give you an enormous sense of satisfaction. That's exhilarating too.

There's another aspect to speeding for the thrill of it. Sometimes when someone zips by at a considerably faster speed than the rest of the traffic, and they are just barely veering past your fender and not signalling and generally, well, being rude, I feel bad for that person. Too me it vividly signals inner pain and low self-esteem and insecurity. People who are at peace with themselves and have a basic sense of happiness and well-being simply do not treat other people that way. Even other people in cars. That's "cry for help" driving.

Well, I knew you wouldn't agree. But at least I've stated my views.


Mac said...

Good heavens. I drive like a little old lady, and have for years--mostly because I am accustomed to pulling horse-trailers. The horses hate it when you go zipping around in traffic, trailer whipping across lanes, behind you. Then they don't want to get back in after you've let them out. Not even to go home. They'd rather walk.

I'd never thought of it as a reflection of inner piece. Heh. I like that, though. I think I must use it.

And LOOK at the cool stuff you've put on your blog, like links! I've just barely managed to get my template to accept a quote at the bottom (you know, where the template tells you "you can type text in here".

Mac said...


I meant "peace" *sigh*--crap, I'm going to have a bad homophone day.