Saturday, May 07, 2016

On Driving

If you really want to know what a person is like, watch them while they're driving. Their strength of character and their flaws are all laid bare on the road where animal instincts kick in and jungle rule prospers.

Today, I'm going to talk about some of the species I've observed in the urban wild and describe their behavior.

First, there's the self-conscious learner. This is the person who knows they don't know how to drive, feels like everyone noticed their car stall or saw the poorly judged swerve, and have permanently red cheeks. They are exhausted after fifteen minutes of driving because apart from remembering to look in each mirror, indicate, honk, switch gears, hit the brakes and park without hitting that pillar yet again, they have also been thinking about how they're making fools of themselves. This is because it's been a while since they were children, when falling and failing were ordinary, and they are afraid of what people will think of a grow adult who cannot do something so simple which seems to come so naturally to everyone else.

Of course, I prefer the driver that knows that he knows not than one who knows not but thinks that he does. You know the kind, and, because I really don't want ruin your mood, I won't go into the details.

Then there are drivers such as myself, who still believe that the world is inherently fair and just. We pause and wait for others to go through, stop at a red light when no one is looking, enduring even the cacophonous symphony of a hundred cars honking. We believe in changing the world by example, by making politeness so common and contagious that it becomes habit. We follow Kant's philosophy: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

Another driver, who also hasn't given up hope, is the kind who tries to create more direct change. He honks at people going too slow, gestures at them for going the wrong way, yells at them for talking to friend driving alongside them, or for overtaking from the wrong side.I call this the "holier-than-thou" kinda driver. Of course, another person's definition of holy may be different than your own, or that of common sense, and I have myself been yelled at for turning into a one-way road by people who were driving the wrong way. I have been guilty of this behavior myself. My thing is honking at people who spit or speak on the cell-phone. The honk is essentially a rebuke, a scolding: we all know it won't work, but we keep wishing that it did. It's better than feeling helpless.

There are also some cynical drivers, who pretend that everyone around them is an obstacle, something unthinking and in the way. They don't get angry or bother honking or trying to change the ways of other drivers. They've given up. They just overtake and zoom past as quickly as they can, making no ripples in the ocean of the road where they are the sole fish of reason.

Finally, there is the philosophical driver who doesn't care what you think and shall drive exactly as they please, thank you very much. They savor the drive, with all its troubles, just like they savor life knowing that there is only one final destination and they're in no hurry to get there.

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