Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Traveling Misanthrope

I do a lot of driving. It always brings out the misanthrope in me.

I go on a lot of recreational drives, like into the mountains of north Georgia or up U.S. 441 toward the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (one of my favorite drives in the world) or on various backroads that seem like they might be interesting. The roads on these drives tend to be twisty and turny and I don't always know them that well, plus I'm trying to enjoy the scenery, and I'm on the lookout for any thing or place worth stopping at to visit or to take a picture of.

So I don't drive especially fast.

Oh, most of the time I'm driving the speed limit, sometimes a tiny bit faster – I may go 50 in a 45 MPH zone, but that's usually as fast as I'm willing to go. But that never seems fast enough for most of the cars that end up behind me. When I'm out there driving, trying to enjoy the scenery while also keeping my eyes both on the road and on the car's mirrors, it seems like all the other cars want me to drive faster than I am, and they sure as heck don't like it when I slow down to look at something that I might find interesting enough to take a picture of. I get passed or tailgated by just about everybody. The only scenery the other drivers care about, it seems, is the trees and mountains whizzing by in a blur as they speed off towards…wherever it is exactly those other drivers are going.

And it makes me hate them, every one of them. Stupid tailgating cars! I drive like I have a sense of self preservation. The other drivers seem to think they're immortal. They drive as though when they're around, all laws, including those of driving, the road, and physics, are suspended. My driving is informed by the knowledge, like Mr. Flood's gentle handling of the whisky jug in that Edwin Arlington Robinson poem, that "most things break." And that includes people who drive like idiots, or who drive too fast on twisty, turny roads they aren't familiar with.

It's pretty much the same on the roads I travel regularly, the roads I am familiar with. Even when I'm just heading to work, I still drive like someone who knows you should exercise caution when piloting a ton of metal down the road -- which is to say, I don't drive fast enough for everyone else.

I don't really know what the people in the cars behind me are thinking. Probably I spend a lot more time thinking about them than they spend thinking about me. There's probably nothing personal when they zip by me at 100 miles an hour. I doubt they really think, "Oh no! It's that Chris Burdett guy who always drives so slow," when they see the hind end of my Hyundai Elantra on the road ahead of them.

I doubt they enjoy passing me.

Do they?

No comments:

Post a Comment