True confession time: I have a lead foot.
I drive fast. Not as fast as Winston Wolfe (“It’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.”), but consistently fast. While I’m much better about it than I used to be–I no longer find myself doing 80 on the interstate, for example, at least not on purpose, and I’m very good about residential areas–I tend to find my own speed on the roads, which is usually 5, sometimes 10 miles per hour over the posted speed. Despite my tendency to speed, I consider myself a good driver, and a careful one. I can hear some of you arguing that I can’t be a good driver if I’m speeding. Note, however, I do not do 60 in a 30 zone, I do not have to slam on the brakes every time I come to a stop sign or a red light, passengers are not thrown left and right when I turn. I don’t tailgate or pass with abandon or weave in and out of traffic like I’m running the Daytona 500. I am careful–I merely like to drive at a speed I’m comfortable with, and I do pay attention to traffic and weather conditions, etc. So, if you’re going to drop a comment bomb on me about it, save it. This post isn’t really about speeding, anyway.
My big problem comes when I get stuck behind a slow driver. I grip the wheel, sit up straighter, and get rather agitated. I grumble a lot, and say things like, “Engage hover car mode…NOW!” or “Activate ground-to-ground missiles.” I imagine my car zooming through the fireball (remarkably undamaged) like some action hero stunt, then fall back to a safe driving distance and continue to gripe. The person doesn’t even have to be going super-slow–I want the option to travel at the speed I want, when I want. It’s selfish, I know, but there it is.
Though I’m not entirely cured of this habit, I’ve gotten much better about this over the years, in a large part because of certain experiences I’ve had. In the not-too-distant past I traveled quite regularly with rather unusual cargo. On any given day I might be driving with a bunch of boxes in the back of my van, and in those boxes were birds of prey: a hawk, an owl or too, and I think most of you have seen pictures of Morty, the turkey vulture. Some days maybe I didn’t have birds, maybe I had turtles, frogs and snakes. Toughest of all were the days I had coolers full of marine invertebrates like horseshoe crabs, snails and sea stars. On those days I would drive gingerly, cringing at every bump in the road, babying the van around every corner, slowing well before stop signs. I hate the sound of a bird losing its balance. Birds use their wings for balance, and when a bird flexes its wings inside a box, it could break a feather or injure itself. And I was terrified one of my coolers would tip over and send sea water and snails spilling all over my van. It kept me extra careful, kept me at reasonable speed, and sometimes I would see someone close behind my and think, “Yeah, back off, buddy, I’m carrying live animals here.”
That experience has definitely helped me. Despite my fantasies about ground-to-ground missiles, when I find myself stuck behind someone doing 30 in a 45 mph zone I ask myself: what precious cargo is this person carrying with them? Or perhaps they have a mechanical problem with their car and they’re taking it up to the mechanic’s now, but they have to be really careful. Maybe they’re sick and on their way to the hospital. Probably it’s nothing like that. Probably, they’re just some tourist gawking at cows, trying to figure out if they’re on the right road or not, fearing the dreaded appearance of a New York cop, or maybe they’re just not paying attention. The point is, I don’t know. I can’t know.
And that brings me around to my real point. The death of Robin Williams by apparent suicide has brought out a lot of commentary from a lot of people. Most of what I have seen have been expressions of shock and loss, and outpourings of sympathy for his family. It’s also brought out its share of idiots who call him a coward, or call him weak and selfish. The thing is, we really don’t know what he was driving around with, we don’t know what kind of things were rattling around in his trunk. Slow down and back off.
Have a great weekend, everyone.