I like driving. I realized this the other day while I was driving to work for an early morning weather shift and practically no one else was on the highway. That’s rare these days since the roads are more packed than ever, even though they keep building more and more lanes.
When you’re the only one on the road with maybe one or two cars ahead of you, I find it relaxing and enjoyable to drive. Sometimes I even drive without the radio on just to have some peace and quiet with the hum of the engine providing a nice soothing background for my thoughts. My dad used to love to drive, and I think I inherited that love of the road from him.
Of course, driving is usually just a chore or a necessary evil to get from one place to the other usually as quickly as we can. Road rage is rampant, and I can’t say that I haven’t uttered the occasional nasty phrase at a fellow driver who cut me off or offered a friendly gesture here and there.
The funniest reaction to road rage that I’ve seen were the taxi drivers during a trip to Italy a few years ago. When someone would honk the horn at them in anger, many of them wouldn’t get upset and yell. Instead, they would simply shrug their shoulders and throw up their hands in a sort of, “Oh, well, I couldn’t help it,” kind of gesture. It made me laugh and I keep trying to remember to adopt it when I encounter cranky drivers on the interstates and the Parkway West in Pittsburgh.
Is it just me or does everyone on the road today think they’re Mario Andretti? People drive faster than I can ever remember, they don’t allow other drivers to pass or merge on from the entrance lanes, and the drivers entering highways don’t yield or wait their turn to merge. Instead, they just hit the gas and plow ahead expecting everyone else to get out of their way. Do they not teach driver’s education to teens anymore? Or have people simply forgotten the rules of the road in much the same way that manners have gone by the wayside everywhere else?
People are so distracted while they drive now with phone conversations, GPS directions and car entertainment systems. One commercial for insurance makes fun of this showing a woman so entranced by her new car’s computer readout that she runs off the road while staring at the computer screen on her dashboard. I can actually envision this happening in real life. I started stashing my cell phone in my purse on the back seat of the car so that I won’t hear it ring or buzz from texts or emails. That way, I can just concentrate on the road and – in those rare instances – actually enjoy the drive.
Kristin Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.