Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Perspectives: Driving to Work

Today I'm going to start a new feature here. I'll take an experience that I've had recently and write about it--from both my perspective and the perspective of the person I interacted with. Obviously I'll be postulating on exactly what their perspective is, so this will be an exercise in imagination. The two sides of the story are presented in no particular order, and I leave it to the reader to wonder which perspective is my reality and which portrays the imagined thoughts of those I interact with.

So here we go.

So I'm cruising along this morning, grinding through the darkness of the daily commute to work, stop light after stop light, when finally I get to my favorite part of the drive. As I fly past the last traffic signal, the road opens up and turns to a highway. For the next seven miles it's nothing but me and the open road. The engine gently purrs as my car accelerates up the hill with ease. "This is what I bought a Lexus for," I assert to no one. Rain drops hit the windshield and hardly even stay long enough for the wipers to reach them before they're blown off by the wind as it rushes angrily over my car's curves.

The green Washington scenery flies by outside and all my cares are just beginning to melt away when--what's this? What was just a red speck in the distance moments ago has now become a distinct pair of tail lights, and they're getting bigger and bigger. It looks like someone up ahead is driving slow in the fast lane. Hopefully they'll see me approaching and get out of the way. Hopefully...maybe...possibly...nope. My foot mashes down on my least favorite pedal as I slide up behind the inattentive jerk in the beater car. Even now that I'm right behind them they don't even seem to know I exist. "Get out of my way!" Wait, was that out loud?

Dang, this jerk is impervious! Even flashing my brights at them yields absolutely nothing. If only I could get around them on the right I would, but there's a steady stream of equally oblivious drivers blocking my way there. It looks like up ahead there may actually be a break though. After what seems like forever, finally the stream of slowpokes parts and I fly through the gap and past the "drives slow in the fast lane" jerk. The headlights in my mirrors finally begin to steadily shrink, and I breath a sigh of satisfaction, only to realize that I've arrived at the next red light.

Finally the light turns green, but it's a shallow victory, as the highway narrows into one lane each direction and a long pile of slow drivers plod along at a turtle's pace in front of me. Eventually we reach the next signal, which is my turnoff. At least I don't have to wait around at this light. Sliding along the side of all the sheep, I scoot up to the light and make my right turn. After a few more miles of winding, slow, back-country roads, finally I arrive at work, frustrated and unsatisfied. What a way to start off a Monday.

Stepping into my car and starting the engine, I pull my car out of its evening home and roll down the bumpy driveway to the street. Sitting through the least-sensibly programmed light on my drive, I ponder the day ahead. Sadly, my pondering is cut short as the cars in front of me begin to move, and we all turn left onto the main causeway that brings me to work each weekday. Thankfully my morning commute brings me in the opposite direction of the masses, away from the city and out into the country. As a result, the road soon clears of traffic signals and a 35 mile-per-hour limit, and becomes more of a freeway, with the limit going up 60.

Accelerating as I pass under the clogged-up Interstate, I soon reach the limit. The first few exits are always fairly busy, bringing the average speed of the right lane down to about 45, so I cruise on by, passing them all on the left. Eventually I pass the last exit of the batch, but people on the right still aren't going faster than 55 as we begin our ascent up the hill, so I stick to the left lane. I'm not a speeder, but I'm not a hands-together, hunched-over, lacks-the-strength-to-push-the- gas-pedal-down, grandpa driver either.

Cruising merrily on my way up the hill, I glance in the rear-view mirror and notice a pair of those blue-tinted headlights steadily approaching me from behind. Before I know it they're right on my tail, and flashing their brights at me as if it's their God-given right to fly down the road at whatever speed they choose. Even if I wanted to get over for this rude driver I couldn't, because there are still cars in the right lane next to me. Perhaps he just wants me to speed up for him. That's a good plan, I'll just floor it right as I crest this hill and blow past the one spot that the State Patrol likes to lie in wait. Wait... no. Mr. Impatient will just have to tolerate driving at the speed limit for a few more minutes.

Just as we approach the next traffic signal (which is red), the traffic to my right clears up, but since shortly after the light the right lane merges into the left, I stick to the left lane. Blue Light Special seizes on this opportunity to weave around me on the right, triumphantly (?) coming to a stop at the red light an entire 15 seconds before me. Coming to a stop behind them, I notice that their car is a Lexus. Not surprising. They've been driving like they're out to prove that spending $40,000 on a car isn't a colossal waste of money. When the light turns green, we all crawl forward, limited to 45 or 50 mph by some of the large trucks in front of us, no doubt on their way to the road improvement up ahead. A few miles down the road we come to a stop at the light that the construction is going to eventually eliminate. The Lexus driver's impatience shines through again as they swerve over into the shoulder and zip past the stopped cars, allowing them to shave at least 45 seconds off of their commute. They must really enjoy their job, wanting to get to it so quickly. Oh, look at that, the light is green already. The last five minutes of my drive just seem to fly by, and before I know it, I'm at work. Getting out of my car and crossing the parking lot in the rain, I look forward to a productive day at the office.

Categories: Features, Personal

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