Friday, April 28, 2006

For Musing on Driving

Musing had a line about the joy of driving that is sometimes lost and I said I would look for an essay I wrote some years ago when I was writing a lot. Here it is. I wasn't sure if I would post old writing here, but maybe I should. Why, the hell, not? It's my blog and there are no rules about it. Right?

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like my car.


I love highway driving, at night especially. Very little thought--the music--yours alone, even stupid albums or bad, maudlin mixes that your friends laugh at you for owning, or don't even know that you own--you can sing and no one can even see you singing, let alone hear you. It's your world.
I used to speed down the highway late at night, when the lanes are a bowling alley, and the Pru and the John Hancock are distant pins. Pull over into the fast lane and let fly! Well, it was flying for me, but it’s a pretty modest thrill. That's the advantage of having a repressed, deprived childhood (there should be at least one, shouldn't there?). It takes very little to feel wild, reckless and dangerous. So, I do 75 or 80 mph and feel like a mad woman, pulling ahead of the pack, until some loon gets mad at me for being in the left lane and not doing 95. He's right; left lane is for overtaking and passing. I have these little rules for myself in everything. I can speed, but only on a nearly deserted highway, and I never play lane hopping, swerving in and out like some demented game of ancient Frogger. The problem is that doing that in heavy traffic will get a lot more than you splattered if your geometry is wrong. I figure that speeding on an empty highway, the only person I'm going to splatter is me.
I believe in personal responsibility, I really do. It's hairsplitting of the finest order and hypocritical to the old guy in a cap, riding back from dinner somewhere with his wife of 50 years in the passenger seat, doing the exact speed limit in the middle lane, sunk so low in the seat of his Cadillac that I can only see his hat as I come up on him from behind doing my 80 miles per hour or so, and I wonder briefly if it’s the hat that's driving or a person and then I pass him with an annoyed wave, but at least it's a line somewhere and I admit that the philosophy is slightly flawed. It's like eating only the white of an egg and thinking that you're safe because you didn't eat the yolk, or ordering lite-beer, or diet coke with your burger and fries. Yeah, but… Yeah, but I'm still breaking the law. I knew a man once who stood up in church and said that God told him to slow down on the highway, and "Praise the Lord," he had slowed down from 80 to 70 and avoided a pile-up and he just thanked the Lord that the Good Lord had helped him save his family. I remember thinking, "God told you that it was Ok to break the law by 5 miles per hour, but not 15?" But then, I already knew that this guy was a pompous hypocrite and his church a sham, so it's sort of the exception that proves the rule. I don't think that God spoke to him at all.
So I'm not saying that the fudging is right; it's just what I do. Unfortunately, a friend of mine pointed out, (though fortunately not while we're in my car), that the guy doing 90 and zigzagging in and out like a mad flea, or the line of gang-bangers (by which I mean a line of cars tailgating the guy in front of them, for four or five cars up to the guy who's going the speed limit as if the group of them can pressure him into going faster--which just means a multi-car pile up instead of just two) probably think that their fudging is ok, maybe even right, just like me, or the guy doing 45 in the far right lane. We're all doing the best that we think we can.

Anyway, back to me, in my car, beyond right or wrong. I have another friend who will take the straightest way, even if it takes longer--a matter of principle--to defy the traffic patterns in this city. He would probably be appalled to know that I have sometimes taken the longest route, around the whole city in order to stay a little longer in my car. Sometimes I don't even speed. I find a nice stable car doing the speed limit and I stay a safe distance behind, so that the world becomes the white lines and his tail lights.

This is as good a place as any to post a picture of my new car. It's very like my old car, only blue, and new, and a Toyota, not a VW.

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