What goes on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening?
I commute more than I want, so I have plenty of time to analyze the flow of traffic about me and even the overall philosophy of driving. Since I’m afflicted with these thoughts a few hours each day, I figured it was my duty to share my affliction with the largest audience possible. Consider yourself afflicted.
There are three main attitudes of driving. Taken together, they represent a progression to driving enlightenment.
The first stage is the every-man-for-himself, whoever-gets-there-first-wins attitude that is the dominate characteristic of most commuting experiences. It is essentially a racing mentality, where passing is viewed as inherently aggressive so the driver has to do everything he can to stay in front of… everyone. Consequently, a driver stuck in this mode is highly reactive to everyone about him. Much of his purpose in driving is to out-drive those about him.
The second stage of driving enlightenment comes when the driver, in NASCAR parlance “Drives his own race” and ignores the others. Drivers at this stage drive constant speeds, often below the speed limit and in the lane of their choice, oblivious to the needs, and gestures, of those about them. These drivers function essentially independent of the people about them.
The third, highest stage of driving enlightenment, come when the driver’s focus returns to the world about him, not in competition but in a spirit of cooperation. A highly enlightened driver is devoted to the overall flow of traffic, adjusting his speed and driving line to reduce congestion and maximize traffic flow. This driver knows to let the damn fools he encounters go as they wish because holding them up just makes them more foolish and more damned.
The riddle of the Sphinx (“four feet… two feet… three feet”) recounts age as we crawl on all fours as a baby, walk on two feet in adulthood and rely on a cane in old age. It also recounts stages of independence in our lives: highly dependent on others in early life, independent in early adulthood and increasingly dependent on others as we age. This mirrors the three levels of driving enlightenment. At the lowest level, our behavior is driven heavily by those about us. Then we ignore them before coming back to working with them in a cooperative manner.
Unlike the riddle of the Sphinx, the three stages of driving enlightenment aren’t necessarily correlated with age. It’s not just young drivers that drive with a video game mentality. (There ain’t no reset button for life, jackass!) I see people clearly old enough to know better driving like they don’t and feel a bit sorry for them.
What’s the point of life if it is not a progression to higher levels? What a shame it would be to live an entire life and still be making the same mistakes of childhood. (Note that I’ve segued away from the riveting topic of commuting.) You know who you are, those of you who never learned to save money, who never developed the discipline to do what needs to be done regardless of your mood, who think a seventy-two inch television is a necessity, who buy anything Apple hawks just because it is from the Holy Temple of Jobs, who never developed a philosophy of life more sophisticated that the bumper stickers plastered crookedly on your overpriced, oversized, overloud, overcompensating-for-lack-of-manhood road chariot. (Pay attention: we’re back to driving for the grand finale.)
Grow up, slow down and get off my bumper.