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"As if to keep the universe in proper synch, you have no clue what's going on with me, either."

I'm driving that car you're trying to pass. Yes, I know the road looks clear ahead. It's a clear, sunny day. You zoomed up to ride my rear bumper and you're gesturing with both hands in frustration. I know you want me to drive faster. I'm not trying to act as obstinately as I must appear. What's wrong with me? A grave shortcoming. I'm driving at the speed limit. We've passed two speed limit signs since you started crawling up my tailpipe. Perhaps you were too distracted to notice? I'm noticing for you, I guess.

Why? Why can't you coerce me into driving more recklessly?
A personal conviction stands in my way, as much a part of who I believe myself to be as my name. I always drive the speed limit. Oh, I might inadvertently slip a mile or two per hour over the limit occasionally, but I always slow back down as soon as I notice. I almost never don't notice. Yes, I know that it's common custom in this state to routinely drive, what, seven miles per hour over the speed limit because the staties allow that much over before they'll bother to stop anyone? My conviction has nothing to do with getting away with anything. I've run the numbers, seven miles per hour won't make much difference in my arrival time. Even if nobody were looking, I'd observe the limit.

I consider observing the speed limit to be a sort of outward sign of an inward respect. I find few opportunities to demonstrate my fealty to anything—God, country, you name it. I figure I can demonstrate my civility by respecting the speed limit. This small act costs me nothing and often saves me a bunch of paranoia. Both The Muse and I are the types who get suspected even if we aren't doing anything. Do something out of line and we're nailed, or at least that's what the nagging voices inside our heads whisper. So I drive the speed limit. Oh, I keep out of the seven hundred dollar lane on the freeway. I never wander out there. I'm a middle lane guy, avoiding the truck traffic. I don't consider driving to be a competitive activity. Go ahead and pass me. I won't care. I'll even slow down a little to help you get by.

But I will notice and wonder, strictly to myself, you understand, whether you also shave the truth on your tax returns or pad the old expense account a teensie little bit. I won't know where your other limits lie if I see you flaunting this tiny one. Sure, I know you forked over a buttload of cash for that little Mercedes roadster and I suspect you seek out every opportunity you can get to show just how sporty that little car can be. Okay, there, you passed me on a double yellow line, flipping me off as you pull pack into the lane in front of me, almost clipping my front end. I continue my steady progress, knowing there's a hairpin turn just around that next corner. I close the gap around that turn and as we climb the following hill, I notice your right turn signal blinking. I slow as you brake to make the turn. By my accounting, you cut nearly two full seconds off your travel time by passing me as you did, but to my mind you forfeited considerable to acquire that time. Use it well.

It occurs to me that much of the cluelessness I witness amounts to convictions acting themselves out. None of us are fluidly flowing beings. We're each constrained and liberated by the convictions we keep. None of us carry bumper stickers explaining what's going on inside the head of the one behind the wheel. We have to guess. We're always free to make generous interpretations, but often choose not to. The you-know-what-kind-of-hole surprises me, disappointing me a little bit in passing. I have no clue what's going on with you. As if to keep the universe in proper synch, you have no clue what's going on with me, either.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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