My daily routine includes a 120-mile round trip commute to and from work. Some might consider this to be a burden; but I actually enjoy the time behind the wheel. On the way into the office; I am able to sort out all of the tasks to be accomplished during the day, preparing myself to wow the healthcare world. On the way back home; I am able to let go of the day’s business challenges, preparing myself for an evening of relaxation. The two and half hours of combined windshield time allow the mind to flow effortlessly!
By the very definition of being a writer; I am constantly observing the world around me, most specifically human behavior. There is no better place to witness both the best and the worst of humanity than behind the wheel of an automobile! From the vantage point of the steering wheel; I have witnessed numerous acts of kindness, as well as too many deeds of malice! Over the years as a motorist, I have come to realize that the roadway is a reflection of society as a whole.
Traveling on the interstate almost daily can be a test of nerve and resolve! My favorite ride on this high-speed asphalt amusement park is the “Blind Spot Coaster.” This is the person who drives right in that magic zone where they are invisible in both your rearview and side view mirrors. You speed up, they speed up! You slow down, they slow down! It quickly becomes apparent that they have no mind of their own and live only to follow the actions of others! I have to imagine you have run into this type of person before.
Then there is the non-stop thrill of the “Speed and Slow Go-Round.” This is the vehicle that comes up behind you at a high rate of speed. The driver lingers on your back bumper for a moment and tries to push you to accelerate. When you do not comply, they use a single finger to inform you that you are number one; and then they fly around you. The automobile quickly swerves into your lane and proceeds to slow down! If you have the audacity to try to pass them, they floor the gas pedal! Before you know it, you are playing the villain in “Blind Spot Coaster!”
By far my favorite highway game is the ever pulse-quickening “Bumper Sticker Hypocrite Twist.” This involves a family style vehicle such as a late-model mid-range minivan. The driver attempts to emulate their favorite NASCAR idol by tailgating, passing closely, darting in and out of traffic, and unexpectedly braking and accelerating for no apparent reason. This is the vehicle that invariably displays a very large “Baby On Board” bumper sticker! Now we know where Hollywood stuntmen get their beginning; in the car seat with an overly aggressive mother at the wheel!
My father managed to teach three of his children how to drive; all without having to ingest sedatives or seek professional counseling. His credo was always, “Drive defensively!” He imparted paternal wisdom with his tips on how to hope for the best, yet prepare for the worst on the roadways! In short, we were taught to anticipate the vehicular stupidity of those around us!
I have taken this philosophy one step further as age has caught up to me. I now prefer to “drive defensively and courteously!” I am the driver who always has one eye on his mirrors; looking out for those who apparently cannot look out for themselves. I manage to refrain from flying the one-finger salute at those who cross me. In fact, I go out of my way to brake early, let merging traffic enter in front of me, and wave the other person on when we tie for the right-of-way at a stop sign!
For the record, please allow me to state that I am by no means a car-driving choirboy! I have been known to slow down a bit below the speed limit when somebody is riding my bumper. I have also sped up slightly to keep somebody from darting out in front of me. These episodes of motoring mischief have never endangered me, my passengers, or the other person. I guess I felt I had to simply impart a lesson unto them!
Over the years I seem to have become more mellow on the road. It is rare when I feel compelled to teach an errant driver a lesson. I tend to allow others to cut in front of me or take an undeserved right-of-way. Perhaps I have simply learned that I need to appreciate the beauty of the journey rather than worry about how quickly I get to my destination. The bottom line is; I have always gotten to the destination, so why not enjoy the drive?
Ask yourself two quick questions. First, how many one finger salutes did you receive on the road last week? Second, how may of those salutes did you fly at somebody else? If the answer was more than “none;” perhaps it is time for you to be driven in a new direction!