Monday, October 4, 2010

Slow Drivers Ahead


Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone--and please keep in mind that when I say "everyone" I mean absolutely every last driver on the road except me--is driving slower these days? It's true, and you know that it's true, so don't deny it.

Now, keep in mind I've never considered myself a driver with an overtly heavy foot. Sure, when out on an open and unobstructed road, I've been known to drive a little over the posted speed limits. Maybe just a little, anyway. But I've never been one to be obnoxious about driving fast. After all, I guess it's never been as important to me to arrive someplace first as it has been to simply arrive. This truism became even more true as soon as I became a father, I noticed.

But be that as it may, of course there are times when I'm in a hurry--or times at least when I feel I'm in a hurry. (And during such times, really, what's the difference?) And at the end of the day, even though it may not be my top priority to get where I'm going quicker than the next person, neither is it my goal to be the last one to get where I'm going.

I think you get my point.

Which brings me to my real point, after all. What is the deal with the growing number of people driving so slowly these days? It can't be just me who notices this, is it? Time and again, I find myself stuck behind an interminably slow vehicle. Of course this isn't a new phenomena. "Slow drivers" have always been associated with "old drivers." You know the kind of person I mean. It used to be that if you got stuck behind a car going 10, 15, or 20 mph slower than you and everybody else around you, it was a fair and safe bet--once you were finally able to find enough room to work your way around them and leave them in your dust--the sloop-shouldered driver behind the wheel would be sporting a head full of hair as white as the knuckles gripping the wheel.

Not so any more.

There is no such thing as a fair and safe bet along those lines today. In fact, I've noticed that most of the drivers I get stuck behind now are my age or younger. 

*[Aside: And yes, I'm fully aware that the label "old driver" is entirely relative. Stay with me here...]

Which of course leads to the overtly obvious conclusion in all of this: If the people driving so slowly on the roads today are younger than they used to be, then it could be that I'm just getting older and my perceptions are changing. And this is true, I suppose. But that still doesn't account for why younger people are driving so much slower than they used to. I mean, according to the stereotyped tradition, shouldn't I be the one in the way of all these younger drivers? Shouldn't I be the "slow driver" in all of this? Am I driving faster than I used to? Are my expectations set too high? Am I impatient? Intolerant? Impossible to please?

Well, yes probably. But that's missing the larger issue.

Something else must have happened recently in our larger culture to account for this evolutionary slide in driving habits. And it can only be attributed, in my mind, to the mercurial advent of hand-held technology (i.e., ipods, cellphones, GPS devices, etc....) This has got to be the culprit. We're all so busy programming our satellite feeds, or searching for our favorite songs, or typing a text, or punching in a phone number, or browsing the internet, or checking our email, that we've forgotten something else very important.

We're driving!

And while there are some who would applaud our newly-honed abilities to multitask, I for one am alarmed and annoyed. If you really want to impress me by showing off your ability to play with your digital equipment with one hand while steering your car with the other, then here's an idea: Do it while driving the posted speed limit, at the very least. And if you're too afraid to do that, or if the thought of that maybe makes you pause.... Well, then, maybe it should.

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