Human beings love
to drive. They just love it. Even when they hate it, they love it.
There is something in the human being that loves the sensation of
motion. Whatever that thing is, it feels the same way about driving
that your dog does. Most of us don't actually stick our heads out
the window with our tongues flapping and our ears flying back - but
basically we want to.
We would stick
our arms and legs out the car if we could, just to experience the
air rushing over the skin. When we are actually in motion, we looove
driving. Part of us is in heaven. Our fervent desire for driving
is to spend more time in motion and less time stopped. What
we would actually like usually is to spend more time in faster motion
and less time in slower motion. We would like to spend more time in
faster motion with fewer cars so we could go even faster and
have even more fun! We love to drive!
Because we love
to drive, we naturally think we are good at it. What would be the
point of loving to do something you suck at? That would be weird.
Possible, but weird. So our brains take the easy way out and imagine
that we are good at driving because, unless we are physiologically
messed up, we know we love it.
This is a major
source of your driving problems right here. Because people love
to drive - they do. Because they do - there are ever more people on
the road. The more people there are on the road, the slower you have
to go and the more time you spend stopped. The more time you spend
slowing and stopping, the more you hate driving.
The people in
your area are terrible drivers and complete assholes because they
exist. They constitute a direct and grievous threat to one of
your body's most primal pleasures and the more your body thinks about
this, the madder it gets! If it weren't for these goddamn other
drivers, you would be having so much fun! But you're
If you look at
how angry driving people get and what they get angry at - frequently
it has nothing to do with anything except that they are being deprived
of the sensation of motion. You'd think everyone actually got a card
at birth that says 'you are entitled to the uninterrupted sensation
of motion every time you operate a motor vehicle on a paved road in
a sovereign nation.' It feels like a god-given right. It makes
the body furious to be deprived of it - particularly in an instance
where it was really looking forward to it.
Even if you live
in an area where there really aren't that many people - and therefore
they are not really depriving you of all motion - your brain will
still calculate how much motion it could be experiencing if they weren't
there at all - and then it will be mad at them for being there.
in your area happen to be the worst, rudest, most intolerable drivers
in the entire world - because they are the drivers directly preventing
you from having the exhilarating driving experience you know you were
born to have. It's a tragedy. Feel free to weep.
After you have
indulged in some sincere weeping, brace yourself for the next round
of bad news. Auto manufacturers are making cars better and better
all the time!
You know what
this means. Driving is even more fun than it used to be! You can go
faster and in more luxury than at any time in history. People today
drive cars that are more tricked out (and expensive) than the houses
of 30 years ago. People today drive cars that are the equivalent
of small airplanes.
This has two inescapable
consequences. Ever more people are driving more and more, farther
and farther, for longer and longer times, making the roads ever more
crowded, congested, polluted and slow. And the slower you go, in today's
traffic (which is objectively exponentially worse than the traffic
of 30 years ago), the greater the contrast between what you are doing
- and what you could actually be doing in your marvelous almost flying
You are in a vehicle
that could tear down a deserted highway at 120 mph without breaking
a sweat - and you will never witness a deserted highway in your lifetime.
Cars today are so good that driving 120 mph doesn't even seem dangerous.
If you were driving a '57 Buick at 120 mph, you'd be pretty certain
you were an inch or two from sure death. But not in your Escalade.
An inch or two from annihilating any unlucky motherfucker that got
in your way - but you yourself are immortal. You are so close to having
every sensation of motion you could ever want - and yet, thanks to
all those other assholes on the road, you are so so far away from
what you crave. It breaks your body's heart and it curses, curses
I tell you, curses those other drivers on the road. It lifts its
fist and swears before God that these people are intolerable, rude,
and there is no justification for their existence. It sheds the bitter
tears of resentment and helplessness, overwhelmed by the vast and
rising tide of people in vehicles that could house a family of four.
It sends swirling chemicals of negativity and defeat through your
body and moans, why? why? why? in a heartrending manner designed to
catch the attention of almighty God in hopes of being blessed with
a stretch of open road. And then---when a space opens up, it zooms
as fast as it can until the space is gone and it is thick in the middle
of another clump of Bad Drivers.
And so on and
so on. You can add more dramatic verbiage as fits your taste. Or scale
it back if you are the stoic type. Whatever. The underlying reality
is the same. And
there's only one thing I can think of to do to reverse this downward
spiral of ever more drivers, driving ever more miles, in ever nicer
car manufacturers to bring back the crappy cars of yesteryear!
Nobody wants to drive a damn Pinto! Or an AMC Gremlin or Pacer, or
a Ford Fiesta. Bring back the VW van! There are some ancient Audis
that break down approximately every 2 1/2 miles. That'll keep people
off the road! What about Fiats! They could reduce the driving population
considerably. If we could just bring back bad cars, people will
stop driving. If people stop driving, they will not be in
your way. If they are not in your way, they will automatically become
better drivers. Nothing could be simpler or more logical.
Which brings us
to Analytical Reason #4 for the Bad Drivers in your
area: Your Gruesome Death.
In a way, nothing
could be simpler or more obvious. And yet, this one is tricky,
and even sociological researchers with advanced degrees completely
fail to get it. Statistics and driver's ed classes inform
us that there is nothing in your life more likely to leave you a mangled,
bloody, mutilated heap of Gruesome Deathness than getting in a car
and attempting to drive it somewhere.
If we think about
our three previous Analytical Reasons, we are forced to come to the
conclusion that the ability of massive numbers of people to navigate
themselves from one point to another in a box of steel, metal, fiberglass,
and cup holders at speeds approaching 80 mph at times is actually
completely impossible. How can massive hordes of people with
below average intelligence possibly do this? The obvious answer would
be that they can't. How could people who have never really learned
to figure out their VCRs or how to dress themselves with a modicum
of taste possibly be able to adequately guide a steel box at high
speeds in the presence of large numbers of other stupid people? It
defies the imagination.
So we need to
ponder this for a moment - until we realize that in fact, our logical
deduction is correct - and people can't. Traffic accidents
are a fact of life. They happen all the time. You
Are Not a Good Driver. Neither am I. Neither are the NASCAR
guys who suddenly decide that what they actually wanted was to drive
rapidly into a retaining wall.
We simply cannot
do it. We cannot manage the incredibly complex number of inputs and
rapid decisions and physical coordination and focused yet ever shifting
attention that is required to drive - and so we periodically screw
it up. Just like we screw up everything else we humans do. Give us
points for spirit and trying - but not for flawless execution. If
you think about it - it's absolutely amazing that every single one
of us doesn't die immediately during our very first attempt to drive.
it. We have to do it. We cannot resist the siren lure of our own personal
vehicle and the wonderfulness of driving it to Target to pick up bath
towels. Only the extremely fearful, the incredibly weird, and the
person who lives in Manhattan can possibly resist the primal impulse
to drive. And so we do, day in, day out, very frequently not
dying in spite of the odds.
The only thing
I can think of to account for this is that driving somehow represents
a throwback to our romantic jungle heritage in the wild or something
crazy like that. Perhaps we were just born, bred, or evolved to get
a kick out of managing a multitude of conflicting and potentially
dangerous sensory input while simultaneously eating, combing our hair,
messing with the stereo, and talking to our Significant Others on
the cell phone. Perhaps it's not that different in some ways from
Tracking Dangerous Animals on an Intrepid Hunting Expedition
while gossipping, plotting against our neighbors, fantasizing about
sex, getting hungry, enjoying the scenery, and occasionally being
startled out of our wits by the stray venomous snake hissing vehemently
in our path. Or perhaps driving is not that different from Mortal
Combat in a Dangerous War and we are automatically adapted to it.
At any rate, human
beings (and most other animals I guess) have a huge and handy section
of their brains devoted to what's called procedural memory.
This is a section that figures out, and possibly enjoys figuring
out, how to automatically do all the things you do while driving without
paying very much attention to them. I understand procedural memory
also enjoys a vigorous game of tennis and playing piano concertos.
It also likes to type. Whatever. There's no accounting for its tastes.
But this little
sucker, that there Procedural Memory thing, is so damn talented that
it routinely drives our vehicles to Las Vegas for us so that we can
go gambling. And it gives us the illusion that this driving thing
that we enjoy so much at a primal level is not all that dangerous.
And so we toodle along merrily to work, listening to NPR even though
NPR sucks, barely even thinking about the fact that we are performing
a dangerous activity at occasionally high speeds that in many ways
we are not qualified for and could very easily kill us.
rest of our body doesn't forget!! Our Procedural Memory and
our I Love Motion Detectors may be just fine with driving but other
parts of our body, such as the squishy ones that could easily get
mangled in an unfortunate and rapid encounter with vehicle parts,
are actually scared out of their wits. This has a big effect
on the rudeness of the drivers around you.
someone cuts you off - they're not just being rude - they're
trying to kill you! Every fiber of your body knows this.
A rude asshole who steps on your foot elicits one reaction from your
body. A rude asshole who waves a loaded gun around the vicinity of
your head elicits another. The second rude asshole makes you
really mad. Driving makes your body really really mad.