Monday, September 05, 2005

Ten and Two

During my overwhelming course load this morning (remedial math from 8-8:55) I had a moment. Not the sort of shared moment that one has when they realize they are looking into the eyes of the person they want to spend the rest of their life with for the first time, but rather the type of epiphany that makes sense and order out of some belief or behavior with roots in our childhood.


The instructor of my class was likening the fundamentals of Algebra to that time in a young person's life when they are just learning to operate a motor vehicle. The idea being that going slowly and with caution in the very beginning would, indeed, be germane. While that may be true for mathematics it made my brain race backwards to the actual time when I was learning to drive.

I tend to get, well, frustrated with a lot of people who are on the road at the same time as me. When I am back home I hardly have any instances of this frustration. While there is a vast difference in the way that people drive between Chicago and Durango my anger with the situation did not really make any sense until this morning. I know full well that the pace of life in general in Durango is much slower than a lot of other cities and towns, that is a given. How else would you be able to justify everyone's acceptance of a nearly non-existent public transportation system? People here just don't seem to need, or want, to be anywhere in a hurry. And that is fine. That is mountain life and it is why many people have moved here in the first place. (My one exception to this forgiveness is when people feel that this means that their word--eg. saying you will be somewhere and not showing up, or showing up late--does not mean what it should. There is never any excuse for being inconsiderate or impolite, no matter how 'relaxed' the town you live in is.)

So why, then, do I become so anxious behind the wheel when I have to drive in the state of Colorado? I'll tell you why. It is because of my first day in driver's education class. (By the way, I am pretty sure that they do not teach parallel parking in Colorado's drivers ed.) My first time behind the wheel of a car was sometime in the fall of 1994 I believe. I was the first one in my group of three to get out on the roadways, and as I turned the Toyota Corolla onto southbound Willow Springs Road the 'behind the wheel' instructors first words of advice to me as a young driver were, "You'd better pick it up. People will not like you if you drive too slow."

"People will not like you if you drive too slow." What kind of psychology does that give a youngster? Am I to understand that my social standing will be hindered if I do not keep pace with the other cars on the road? As a sidebar, anyone not familiar with driving in Chicago--and probably any other large metropolitan area--should probably be aware that on the highway there 20 miles per hour over the speed limit is pretty much standard procedure for everyday driving. It is terrifying and exhilarating all at once. It is because of this driving history that any posted speed limit seems to me about right for the minimum speed to be driven. This is why I am often baffled and angered by people who lolligag around town going several miles below the posted speed limit while I, a very busy person with things to do and people to see, am stuck behind them because passing lanes are limited and oncoming traffic also seems not to care about my schedule. Also, as young drivers we had it on good authority (somebody's uncle or father or something) that the police in Chicago were not going to pull you over if you were only going 10mph over the limit, because the fine was small, and therefore a waste of time and paperwork. I just thought it was odd this all flashed into my head during math. That's all.

It is worth noting that if you drive in the Pacific Northwest you will feel like a wanted criminal if you drive just the speed limit. Those people evidently don't have much going on in their days and see no problem with routinely traveling at ten mph below the posted limits on the highway, God bless them.

-A.R. Leith

Quote: "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you."- Louis Prima

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

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BEH said...

Hello A.R.L... Long time reader, First time poster. As I am a new transplant to the Northwest region of the United States, I have been watching the driving patterns of the local residents quite closely. For one, I don't want to drive like an ass-hole because I am still proudly sporting Colorado plates and would not like to give a bad reputation to the state. (I wish Texans cared this much) Second, I subscribe to the belief "When in Rome, do as the Romans". I will soon consider myself a local and want to adopt appropriate local road etiquette. Third, it’s just generally a good idea to pay attention to traffic and things of that nature while driving. Your observations of Northwest drivers are right on. I suggest this is because 80% of the population lives along the I-5 corridor and is constantly stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Therefore 60 mph is pushing the boundaries of a comfortable speed. Either that or everyone is stoned... Personally, I will find it hard to follow this slow driving pattern. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

That quote, it's also from Judy Garland...in case you wanted to know.

A. R. Leith said...

What is with anonymous comments? How long does it really take to put your name on something you write? anyway, to whomever wrote the thing about garland...the quote could be attributed to any number of people. I suppose most accurately to the people who wrote it, but I don't know who they are and have listened to the Prima version most recently.

Hi Hodge!