Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Drive He Said

Among my many personality flaws, as my wife reminds me, is my charter membership in the Everybody On The Road Except Me Drives Like An Idiot Club.

Fortunately for my waning sense of humility, it isn't a very exclusive club, and its members are mostly, if not entirely, self-sponsored.

Recently, though, I've had reason to consider dropping my membership.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older, maybe I'm developing some perspective as time passes, or maybe I'm finally growing up (just a bit) but it's begun to occur to me that the modern American traffic system is actually a model of driving excellence.

If it weren't, after all, most of us would be dead.

Think about this: at any given moment as you cruise a busy highway like, say, US 101 through the San Fernando Valley, you're cooperating with hundreds -- if not thousands -- of other drivers in an incredibly complicated series of instant-by-instant maneuvers happening almost literally too quickly for conscious judgement to become involved. Merge on and off an access road, change lanes, accelerate and pass, slow down and avoid a bit of congestion, make a last-minute course correction to switch freeways, all of this taking place at speeds in the range of a mile-a-minute or more -- the number of unconscious decisions you have to make, second to second, is almost incomprehensible. The only possible way you can survive even five minutes on a high speed freeway is if almost every other driver you encounter operates with a skill and efficiency and a predictability that would seem impossible if you tried to plan it in advance. If you don't find this even remotely astonishing, and a real compliment to the inherent adaptability of the human brain to remarkably challenging and stressful demands, then I pity your lack of imagination.

Humans are amazing.

Even if most of them can't drive worth a damn.

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Please don't flame each other or me. Or I will track you down and set you on fire and we'll see how you like it, boyo or lassie, as the case may be. That isn't a threat, just a jocular reminder that it's better to behave like an adult than a babbling idiot. I speak from experience.

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