San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Thursday, December 10, 2015

You Are How You Drive

Have you ever heard the expression, "You are what you eat?"  People who use this expression somehow believe that the foods we consume are not broken down into basic chemical groups prior to being digested and that it somehow makes a difference if I eat a piece of cake rather than a piece of kale.  Being one who is not easily mislead by junk science I know that it does not matter what I eat since everything is broken down into the same basic constituent parts and, as my Dad used to say, it all goes to the same place.
There is a much better method to gain access to the inner personalities and secret motivations of most people than monitoring their intake of Yuppie-approved food groups.  In fact, there is one activity that most people engage in on a daily basis in which they quite unknowingly display all of their true selves without any inhibitions or filters whatsoever.  Do you know what that activity is?  If you read the title to today's blog post you do.  People perfectly display their true personalities when they place themselves behind the wheel of their automobiles and drive off onto the roadways around them.
There is something about being behind the wheel of a car that makes people feel secure enough to be genuine to their actual selves.  I suspect it is the fact that they believe they are powerful enough to do whatever they want to do while, at the same time, believe that they are securely ensconced within the confines of their car where nobody can get to them.  How else do we explain the fact that testosterone laced men rarely get into fist fights while standing in line at the grocery store check-out line but routinely rage one another while driving their monster trucks down the highway?  Everyone is polite enough to control their natural hatred and animosity for their fellow men by pretending to like them when they meet face to face in a place like a grocery store check-out line.  But put a person behind the wheel of a car and their true sinful selves will be immediately revealed.
I have to make two left turns, one going from my home and one returning to my home, almost every day.  The left turns I have to make are dedicated turns with an arrow and each turn has two turning lanes.  As it turns out (when I wrote that I did not realize I had made a pun...please forgive me), most of the people who make left turns where I do also want to make a right turn shortly after merging into the traffic on the new roadway.  The natural, and polite, way to execute a left turn when my intention is to make a right turn shortly thereafter is to do so from the right left turn lane.  The selfish and Yuppie-way to execute a left turn when my intention is to make a right turn shortly thereafter is to do so from the left left turn lane and then speed wildly to the front of the line of cars while using my turn signal to force myself into the line of cars that made the turn from the right left turn lane.  Can you guess how most people make that left turn?
Nobody would ever dream of behaving in the fashion I witness every day while making two left turns if they were in line waiting for a ski lift or a grocery store clerk.  When was the last time you saw someone run to the front of the line and bump someone out of the way so they can get their first?  I dare say it does not happen very often.  Yet when the privacy and power of the personal automobile is present the true nature of the person is fully displayed.  These selfish folks have no problem thinking only of themselves and putting everyone else at a inconvenience so they can get to the front of the line first.
Another fascinating fact about the way most people drive has to do with tailgating.  I was trained to leave one car length for each ten miles per hour of speed I am driving between me and the car in front of me.  Although that is sometimes impossible to do, I strive to drive that way under most circumstances.  Apparently most of the other drivers on the road never learned that lesson or they decided to ignore what they were taught since the standard practice of drivers where I live is to get as close to my rear bumper as possible, regardless of my speed or the conditions of the road.  During a usual day of driving about to my various cleaning contracts I pull off the side of the road, or into another lane, dozens of times to allow people who are tailgating me to get by.  I have only been in one accident in my life, despite driving over 30,000 miles per year on average for the past 40 years, and that was when I was hit from behind by a woman who was tailgating me.  My goal is to do my best to never let that happen again.
I think we all know about the problem of tailgaters, except for those who tailgate and who appear to be completely oblivious to their dangerous behavior.  As I pondered the reality of tailgating it occurred to me that the practice of following too closely is another indicator of the personality of the driver engaged in it.  Tailgaters tailgate because they have a short-term time perspective.  They react only to what happens to the car in front of them and have no ability or desire to see past the car that is immediately in front of them.  I have fun with tailgaters on occasion by slowing down and speeding up just to see what they will do.  Usually they will dutifully follow my lead since they apparently have no driving will of their own.  They seem utterly enslaved by what I am doing and incapable of looking around me for a longer view of the situation.  In other instances when I quickly pull off the side of the road to let them pass they will slow down dramatically and wait for someone else to come along whom they can tailgate.  They appear to be incapable of driving in front and need the leadership of others to make forward progress.
Isn't this true for so many members of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika?  They wander about, aimless and goal less until someone with a long term time horizon comes along whom they can follow.   Then they quickly jump into lockstep behind that person, blind to where they are going but safe in the knowledge that the fearless leader will take them to a good place.  Socialists are famous for their long term time horizons.  They know that, given the natural sinfulness of all humankind, if they simply wait long enough and spew forth enough propaganda they can institutionalize envy and covetousness into a socialistic economic and political system.  The sheeple who follow them are ignorant fools who are happy to be a part of something bigger than they are and they willingly adopt the long term goals of the socialists as their own.  My guess is that most people who tailgate are also socialists.  If I were seeking a PhD in sociology I would pursue that hunch.
It is fascinating what I can learn merely by getting into my truck and driving down the road. I learn that people are selfish.  I learn that people are unwilling to think about others.  I learn that people will protect a small piece of roadway in front of their cars, with their lives if necessary, to keep some other selfish driver from occupying that space.  I learn that people do not think ahead and are always surprised when bad things happen to them as a result of that lack of a long term perspective.  I remember one winter day a couple of years ago when over 100 cars plowed into each other while going up I-70 into the mountains west of Denver.  The fog was thick and nobody slowed down.  Each driver was tailgating the one in front and they were all going way too fast.  One driver that I knew who was involved in the crash told me that after he plowed into the car in front of him he got out of his car and, standing in the thick fog, listened to the cacophony of one car after another slamming into the vehicle in front of his.  From that I conclude that most people are stupid as well. 


  1. You've brought back a memory from the early 1970s. My friends and I were driving to church one Sunday morning and found ourselves in the left-hand turn lane behind a car driven by a well-dressed older woman. It was clear the left-turn light was not going to last long enough for our cars to make it to the intersection; we would have to wait at least one more cycle for our turn to turn. Suddenly the lady in the car ahead of us put her car in zoom gear and rocketed over the concrete lane divider and, driving in the oncoming lane, passed THREE cars ahead of her in the left-turn lane and whizzed around the corner. Well, we had never seen a grown-up try anything like that. We waited our turn and moseyed along to the new church we were visiting. Guess who was calmly playing the organ when we walked in!

    1. Mr. Motes:
      Thank you for your comment. Your story had me laughing out loud. I had to immediately recount it to my wife so we could both share a laugh.