My job involves a fair amount of driving. As I traverse the highways through my city, dodging down side streets and making rapid lane changes as I head to constantly changing destinations, I have come to recognize a specific sub-group of humanity: those who drive slow.
Although encounters are by no means rare, they are emphasized by the force in which my foot hits the brake pedal. These people, these slow drivers, were absent at the all-important Driver’s Ed. class where we were all taught to “go with the flow,” to match speed with the other cars on the road. Instead, these slow drivers choose to pedal along at ten, fifteen, twenty miles per hour below the speed limit, placidly ignoring the other cars that zip by like angry bees.
What goes on in the minds of these people, these slow drivers? Are they frustrated by how fast the world moves, the rapid flow of technology, innovation, discovery, to the point where they choose to go slow as an act of rebellion, small and inconsequential as it is? Are they nervous, have never grown totally accustomed to the speed of these iron horses, and fear the fast reflexes necessary to handle the high speeds? Or are they simply oblivious, unaware of the bother they pose to other drivers?
As I pass these drivers, I often try to crane my head during that split second of parallel passage, when we are side by side for a fraction of a second, to get a glimpse of this person who momentarily has become my mortal nemesis. Although occasionally surprised, I usually find that my suspicions have been confirmed.
Sometimes the driver is elderly, hunched over their wheel with both hands gripping like claws, squinting to see through both the fog of their glasses and the fog of their failing mind.
Sometimes the driver is on the phone, talking or even texting, paying no attention to the falling dials on their speedometer, the line of honking, angry drivers behind them, the cars whizzing past on their left (or worse, on their right, when they fall asleep in the left lane), the angry glares as the other drivers pass.
Sometimes the driver is talking, enthusiastically shouting (or perhaps in the depths of an argument?) at other passengers in the car, sparing only a glance to confirm that they hadn’t fully left the pavement.
Whatever the case, knowing the reason for this slow driver doesn’t usually mollify my anger. Instead, like a hot coal in the bed of a dying fire, I must wait for my frustration to gradually subside. I take a small bit of grim, perverse satisfaction in roaring past the driver, cutting them off sharply in hopes that the sudden movement will awaken them from their stupor, make them realize how frustrating they are being to the others on the road.
Whatever the case may be, at least I’m now past them, able to finally accelerate back to my normal speed, at least until I encounter the next One who Drives Slow.