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I admit to being a world-class ninny behind the wheel. I despise driving. I much prefer taking any form of public transportation, and not only because I can read on the bus. I seem to understand traffic rules a bit differently than many others sharing the road, if I can fairly describe their behaviors as evidence of anything like a sharing attitude. I often feel alone out there, steering a Soap Box Derby jalopy in a NASCAR race.

I, for instance, consider a speed limit a, … well, limit rather than a minimum baseline from which to improvise upward. This amounts to an ethical issue for me, one of respect for if not the rule of law, for myself. I think self-restraint the great under appreciated ability, the dog that generously refuses to bark at anything. On the open road, though, such transcendent discipline gains few appreciators. I am tailgated for deigning to merely observe the posted limit, sometimes finding a score or more cars impatiently failing to demonstrate even a smidgen of self-control behind me. When the passing lane finally appears, a mad rush tries to put me in their rearview mirrors, and I slow down a bit to encourage their disappearance into their future. I pity their frantic haste. Me? I'll get there when I get there, no hair-raising antics anywhere along the way.

I consider passing on the right to be the highway equivalent of going pants-less. Not only is this an inherently dangerous practice, it's genuinely embarrassing to watch someone zoom ahead that way only to watch them encounter that slow-moving caravan around the next corner then have to beg-signal their way back into the flow, slowing down that flow with their intrusion. I suspect that those who zoom never suspect that they are the primary reason traffic moves slower than they prefer. They are the unsuspecting cause of their own frustration. How thoughtful of them to take that out on me. (Same to you, buddy, only more so!)

Etiquette on a bus, train, or airplane seems straightforward enough. One sits placidly while keeping their mouth shut, their cell phone mute, and their carryon stowed. The freeway resembles all you can eat night at the Tankard and Trough buffet, every man for himself, excess the flavor of the day. Libertarianism running amuck as each asserts their urges, their needs, without considering the cost of their profligacy on the collective. Okay, so your turn signal doesn't work. You figured out that you wanted to take this exit just after the exit, you were doing eighty five in the left lane and, well, just needed to whip across my bow or what, you'd miss your exit? Fine, don't worry about little old me. I know they built this interstate just so you could more publicly demonstrate your utter lack of civility.

I fear for a society that demonstrates such self-centered arrogance in even such a simple activity. If you signal that you want to be in my lane, aren't I ethically obligated to let you merge in front of me? This is not a race, not a competition, but an opportunity for concerted cooperation. Even if nobody's watching and you're five minutes late for your appointment with the tooth fairy, couldn't you demonstrate an ounce of humanity along the way? I find myself asking myself these questions as I drive.

The bumper sticker on my car insists that my other car is a pair of boots when, actually, my other pair of boots happens to be a car. I think cars qualify as perhaps the sorriest invention of man, asphalt the enemy of humanity. I drive anyway, but begrudgingly, apparently ineptly. When anarchy reigns, the law-abider becomes the enemy of the state. On the road, that enemy is me.

©2016 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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