Friday, February 01, 2008

2/1/08 Going for Gold

Since I've been spending an inordinate amount of time driving to and from work, my mind has 3-4 extra hours per day to just wander aimlessly. In response, I continue to feel the need to brain dump more than usual. A few of you have told me over the years that you enjoy these stories. While the vast majority of you prefer the YouTube clips and links. I guess today's dumpage is for the few.

How much driving am I doing? It's to the point where the few friends I still have time to talk to are starting to feel sorry for me. In fact, today I had the rare pleasure of actually having a conversation with some coworkers. They, too, are in shock that I'm driving as far as I do. The end result, though, may be the permission to work from home part of the week. Fingers crossed there.

Onto the story from behind the wheel. On the long stretch of I-5, there's an unwritten driving rule. Perhaps I shouldn't be admitting all of this - But it seems like my public duty to be honest rather than a rule stickler. The speed limit is 65 mph. The unwritten rule is that most people are trying to get from where they are to where they're going at some reasonably faster speed. On modern roads in modern cars, that speed in the far left lane is somewhere between 80 and 85 mph. It's just understood by 99% of all drivers to be safe and efficient. I'd say, if you had to break the average speed per lane down, you'd see about a 5 mph drop for every lane to the right. If cars are going 80 in the left lane, you'll see 75 in the next lane over, 70 in the next lane and 65 in the far right lane. It's not hard and fast - just a general rule of thumb. Like electronegativity to the upper right of the periodic table.

Here's the problem with 99%. There's the 1% that doesn't quite get it. That one percent can hinder the drive for a far larger portion of the commuters From my experience, that 1% generally drives a pickup truck or a hybrid or is on the phone. I have no problem if you want to drive the speed limit. That's perfectly acceptable and law abiding of you. What isn't acceptable is the number of drivers that are being inconvenienced because of you. Move over. I'm simply amazed on a daily basis when this scenario happens. We're all moving along just fine and then the brake lights start up for no apparent reason. As I drive over the next "hill", I see a line of 25 cars ahead of me - 24 of which are intending to follow the unwritten rule. And one car preventing the other 24 from continuing along the primrose path. What you start seeing is insane - Cars attempting evasive military manuevers across 4 lanes of traffic to bypass the one "slow" car.

When this happens on a smaller scale in lighter traffic, many times you can pass the car by going into the next lane over. When I do, I can't help but look at the driver. In part out of curiosity and in part to give the "WTF?" glare. Am I impatient? Certainly. Am I an unsafe driver? Not at all. The scenario is simply a personal reminder of how one individual can affect the lives of many more people - It's especially interesting to me because the one individual generally is completely oblivious to the fact that he or she is having this kind of impact.

All that being said, I'm finally to the part of the story I had originally intended on writing. I'm starting to recognize some cars from previous drives. On a side note, I'm not opposed to personalized license plates. But they surely say a whole lot about you if you have one. In general, it doesn't say anything positive about you. I specifically don't understand why you would get a plate about the model of car you drive. In the past week I've seen "ROBS 350" on a Nissan 350z and "C MY LEX" on, you guessed it, a Lexus. I mean, really? That's what you want to say about yourself to the world? I've twice seen the plate "Y2KBUG" and thought about how that seems out of date. Much later did it finally strike me that the plate was on a VW Bug. Probably a year 2000 model. Which means my brain is out of date.
Here's where I bring everything together. Today's car of interest was a Prius in the left lane, driving a bit too slow. The license plate was a special California plate honoring the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. It read "GON4AU". I get it - "Goin' for the gold". Also of interest would be the bumper sticker. It read "NRA: Freedom's Frontline". Putting those pieces together left my mind in disarray - A Prius, an Olympic Plate and an NRA bumper sticker. Immediately I thought, who, other than an athlete from the 1984 Olympics would have a plate like that? - "That might be Mary Decker-Slaney", I thought. Or maybe Edwin Moses. But more likely Mary Decker-Slaney. That was followed by a personal "what the hell?" moment - Why would my mind automatically skip the biggest names of the 1984 Olympics (Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis)? And why would Mary Decker-Slaney drive a Prius and support the NRA more so than Edwin Moses? I then justified that I ruled out Mary Lou Retton because I know she has 4 kids and would need a bigger car. And that Carl Lewis seemed like a guy who would drive something sportier.
I followed this car in bumper to bumper traffic for at least 20 minutes. Because of the high spoiler and angle of the back window, I couldn't see the driver. Although, I spent the entire time looking for glimpses in the rear view mirror. After a few glimpses, I decided that the driver was probably Asian with long hair. So, most likely it was an Asian woman, but it could've been a man with longer hair.
After the 10 miles of bumper to bumper traffic, a carpool lane opened up on the left and traffic started to flow again. The Prius moved into the carpool lane (as certain hybrid vehicles are allowed to do so) and there was daylight ahead of me. I figured this was my last chance to see who the driver was. So I gunned it. I got up next to the Prius and saw her, clear as day. Some random Asian lady who was probably around 50 years old, crushing my dreams of Scooby-Doo solving the mystery of the Prius driving, NRA supporting, Olympic athlete from 1984.

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