ouray

ouray
It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Democracy on the Highway: One Man, One Car, One Vote

I made the 160-mile slog from Greenville, SC to Atlanta's airport this morning for an over-night trip to Austin for a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid ride-and-drive event.

As I motored -- when you write about cars for a living, you can use motor as a verb without sounding too much like a pretentious wonk -- across I-85, I pulled up behind a 20-year-old Toyota Corolla putzing along at about 65 mph in a 70 mph zone. That this clown was going 5 mph below the speed limit on an expressway wasn't so much the issue as his doing it in the left, passing lane.

Was he passing anyone? Well, no he wasn't.

He poked along for probably six or seven miles -- for about two of those miles it was with me flashing my brights behind him. For much of this time he was pacing the very last wheel of an 18 wheeler in the right lane. You could have drawn a straight line from the back edge of the 18 wheeler's trailer to his shoulder.

What finally inspired this fool to speed up a little was that the 18 wheeler came up behind a slower moving truck and started to pass. The Corolla had been off the truck's trailer for so long that the truck driver apparently forgot he was there.

I'm sure the Corolla's driver needed a clean pair of tightie whities before it was all over with as the 18 wheeler and Corolla swerved back and forth for about 5 seconds. The Corolla driver finally accelerated enough to get past the truck, but still didn't move into the right lane. He dropped back to 65 mph and continued cruising. I took advantage of a break in the right-lane traffic to pass the Corolla on its right and get around it. The 20 or so cars backed up behind me were not quite as lucky.

Why do some people insist on plodding along in the left lane when they aren't going fast enough to pass most right-hand traffic? Do they not notice a line of cars behind them, or is it that they just don't care?

Why are the cars they are usually driving some old P.O.S. covered with dings and peeling paint, rolling along on a donut spare tire?

I have a theory.

I call it the Populist Left Lane Corollary.

I believe a vehicle on the highway is the great equalizer. No matter your station in life, the depth of your assets, the size of your bank account, your good looks or lack thereof, or the cost of the vehicle you are driving, you have the same rights on the highway as every other motorist.

That rich guy in his Bentley or Mercedes-Benz 500S has no more right to his little piece of the road than an unemployed ditch digger chugging around in an old Dodge Cornet that he borrowed from this brother-in-law.

In other words, the highway is one place in life where anybody who is usually a nobody is always somebody.

They putz along in the passing lane holding up traffic because they can, and there's not one damn thing anyone can do about it.

Regardless of what kind of rolling dung pile they are driving or how many fast-food bags and wrappers are heaped in the backseat floor or what sort of sticky goo covers the seats or how much black exhaust billows out of the tailpipe, they can drive in any lane at pretty much whatever speed they can muster. And, by God, nothing is going to move them.

It's just a theory….

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