Friday, March 7, 2014

#149 - Where's the Fire?

“I feel the need. The need for speed.” – Top Gun

There must be quite a few fans of the movie “Top Gun” here where I live, judging from the way some of them drive.

I was heading into work this morning when a company van from a local pastry shop came barreling out of their parking lot and had almost reached the speed limit by the time they got onto the actual road. The van proceeded to pick up speed from there. I didn’t hear the air raid sirens or anything, but there must have been a four-alarm donut shortage somewhere. Either that, or the driver had already consumed a couple of days’ worth of caffeine and sugar.

On the same drive this morning, while driving a couple of miles per hour over the speed limit myself, I was passed by a truck going close to ten miles an hour too fast – in order to pass me before being forced to turn right. This even though there was plenty of room to merge behind me. I am happy to report (in a told you so sort of way) that, because of other slower traffic ahead, said driver never got more than three or four car lengths ahead of me. Not that I am vengeful or vindictive or anything.

What I don’t really understand is the day-to-day rush to get somewhere, usually to work, as if that extra minute (or even less) will actually make a difference. I get that there are emergencies that sometimes necessitate the need for speed, but does clocking in for work at 7:29 a.m. as opposed to 7:30 or even 7:31 really matter. Are there sales taking place with tiny five-minute windows of opportunity that justify or excuse the lack of courtesy or possible endangerment of others?

I’ve also seen people several cars behind me in my lane on a city street pull out into another lane that is about to become a dedicated left-turn lane, pass several cars, then cut back into my lane (sometimes blocking the left-turn lane while waiting for an opportunity to force their way back over). It’s as if their time or their destination is more important or more worthy than mine or the other drivers they’ve passed. News flash: in most cases, it isn’t.

Consideration of others seems to have disappeared, right along with rational political discourse and compromise. It all seems to correspond with the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and the always-connected world in which we live. Some people here where I live blame it on the California drivers who have moved here. I suspect the answer is not quite that simple. 

In our consumer-driven culture, we are under constant pressure to produce and consume. I suspect some of that has also leached into our daily activities. Many people seem to always feel the need to be going or doing (or going and doing), and they have scheduled their entire family’s lives accordingly.

Not being an urban planner, a psychologist, or even a law enforcement officer, I don’t have the answer. Nor do I know the solution. I do have a few suggestions, though, for those of you always hurrying to and fro. First, stop and smell the coffee before you drink it. Those extra few moments don’t matter much in the long run, but they might help you begin your day on a more relaxed footing.

Second, look at all of those planned activities on your calendar. How important are they in the greater scheme of things? Is your schedule so full it allows no space for the unexpected or for doing something spontaneous? If so, you have way too much on your plate and way too little time on your hands.

Finally, might I suggest you try approaching each day’s drive to work or to run errands as if it will be your last? Because the way you drive, it may well be.

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