Waterfall At Stanhope

Waterfall At Stanhope
photo by ljoyburke

Monday, August 07, 2006

Driving at the Speed of Life

I understand speeding. Speeding is inevitable if you are driving any car that is a 99 or older, or a vintage muscle car or a well-maintained luxury car. Here’s the thing. There’s a law in place that requires drivers to take driver’s education, and driving tests, which adhere to specific rules of the road in order for the driver to pass their test. So the new driver has been trained to a standard of behavior that has become obsolete.

Cars are advertised with little kids saying “zoom, zoom”, and performance test drivers “trained professionals” who push the envelope as far as speed and braking time are concerned. Movies, and cops and robbers TV serials have a long history of displaying perfect chases, where only the true pros escape unscathed. The next big thing is sliding, and pimping one’s ride with three DVD players, and 500-watt speakers. Cruising has taken on a completely new level.

I have always driven recycled cars. On the average they would be about ten years old when I would buy them, all four cylinder except for that black, six cylinder Mercury Monarch, the only car I ever bough from a dealership. My first ride was a baby blue Volvo sedan with a sunroof. I bought it with 135,000 miles on it already, for only five hundred dollars. What a deal. Of course, when the battery went, the tires got weak, and the exhaust system literally fell off on the interstate one day when I thought I was hot shit, pushing 75, did I realize that my deal was probably not so good. I remember one of my associates back then who said that he thought the car was “square”. I defended its coolness, which was again not so smart. This fool didn’t even have a ride to compare with mine.

I have owned: a Chevette, Escort, Honda, a Datsun (before the Nissan era - a brown car, bought in desperation, at dusk, which in the daylight was spotted with rust like a Dalmatian), a white Jetta GL (a favorite car – though eventually it sprung a leak which I couldn’t afford to, or didn’t really want to repair, so after a year of bailing it out after every rainstorm I junked it), and a Subaru station wagon (also a favorite car). Most of these cars when driven at high rates of speed, say anything past 67 mph would start to shudder as if they were going to break apart. After my experience with my Volvo I really believed that would happen, so I never pushed a car like that again, that is until I drove a modern car.

The year was 1998, when I rented a brand new Ford Taurus Station wagon. My heart raced and my mind reeled at the quiet power of those eight cylinders. Driving had never felt like that to me before. 'How was this possible?' I thought when I looked at the speedometer and saw that I had been doing 95, instead of the required 65. I didn’t feel it, and it didn’t seem like I was pressing all that hard on the accelerator. I remember smiling then, at the sheer power of it, and the fact that I was finally able to keep up with the pack.

I was a big dog now, who didn’t have to worry about all those other cars who impatiently rode up on my rear end, only to pass right or left side, and give me that “you should be in a junkyard you idiot” look. I finally knew how it felt to be part of the motorized crowd, and the elation of peer pressure. I no longer had to cruise the slow lane is search of like minded slow ass drivers who were either recovering from post traumatic stress caused by past accidents, daily near misses, or being nabbed by speed traps, or tired old cars, or just the ones who really had no need to rush anywhere. That was the crew I was used to riding with, the ones who appeared to submissively follow the speed limits.

In that instant I understood that, the relationship of drivers to speed would prove to be the guidepost for how our culture would evolve in other ways. What I came to understand is that the law as it stands now, only works for those who believe in enforceable consequences of breaking a law. When one discovers information, which seems counter indicative to the rules, it is simply inevitable that people will rebel against the constraints of the law.

Speeding is nearly an impossible law to maintain by municipal police in the current culture of cars that can go 0-65 in under 5 seconds. A woman told me the other day that a speeding camera in Washington D.C. caught her a month ago. The ticket was $75.00. We have all gotten at least one of those red light tickets, which make us think twice about trying to beat the yellow into an intersection. Now the eye in the sky makes consequences a bit more enforceable.

I’ve watched people speeding and muscling passed folks who are trying to do the required 10-25 mph in parking lots, school zones, residential neighborhoods. freeways, parkways and any long stretch without lights is a racing invitation to those who’ve got to get “it” out. I heard recently that some psychologists have discovered that millions of folks are suffering from “road rage”, which is considered an illness.
http://www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/Health/story?id=2035780 Makes you wonder doesn’t it, if there’s that many people transferring their unresolved aggression into road rage, how many other folks who aren’t driving, are transferring their rage into some other modality which puts millions of strangers at risk.

In the fifties, sixties and seventies, sci-fi futurists wrote stories about emotionally devoid, electronic societies, where characters dealt with the loss of privacy, and Marshall Law and other measures designed to keep a rebellious people in line. We are not far from all that now, in the age where descendent of the creator of the “new world order” is working to beef up “Homeland Security.”

We are living a culture where the masses are convinced that faster is preferred, and “immediate gratification” has put “anticipation” out of business. What I wonder is, that as the generations born in 1980 and 1990, continue to come of age in America, how will they shift the laws to accommodate the technological advances that have changed the behavior of the culture. A law that says talking on cell phones that are not hands free is ignored regularly. I’m wondering about the law that says a driver shouldn’t be watching a movie (turned up really loud, so that everyone else know you’re watching a movie), and driving at the same time. Seriously though, three TV screens in a sedan is over kill, especially if one of any number of drivers gets distracted by what you’ve got showing on the screen.

If they “build” it the masses will buy it, so a law that says that a car or motorcycle, which is easily capable of doing 150 should only be driven within ten miles of 65mph will not be able to stand up ten or fifteen years from now. Neither will my habit of buying cars that are at least ten years old with a hundred thousand miles on them.

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One of My Peeps

One of My Peeps
Robin photo by ljoyburke

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