Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Weight of Wrong

I may have mentioned a while back that one of my kids, as a birthday present, got season passes for the family for Six Flags. This is somewhat analogous to giving the gift of the "noisy toy" to someone else's kid. Especially when my kids can't even agree upon which rides to ride. Practically speaking, this means I have to take my kids to Six Flags often enough to make the season passes worthwhile. Don't look at me like that; most of this process is not pleasant or fun. I mean, it's not like I get to ride anything, because I'm always on the ground with whatever kid refuses to go one whatever ride we're at. The only ride they all like is the water ride, which I don't like, so I'm still on the ground... except, when they're on that, which always has a long line, is when I write. heh heh

But anyway, that's all beside the point.

Recently, while on the way back from Six Flags, I got flipped off for being in the way of someone's desire to break the law. Let me explain.

We were driving back from Vallejo; it was rush hour, so traffic was slow; but we were in the carpool lane, because, well, we were a carpool. Traffic in the carpool lane was not slow. Where everyone else was going, maybe, 50 mph, we were going 65. I have to say, I love the carpool lane. More people should use it. Legally, that is. Environmental issues aside: if more people carpooled, regular traffic would be less congested. Anyway, we were going 65, which I know, because I had the cruise control set, and we were fairly flying along. At least, we were flying along in comparison to everyone else.

But, in the midst of that, a young guy (early 20s at most) in a red, almost-sports car came speeding up behind me. There are two things wrong with this picture:
1. The obvious. He was speeding. And I don't mean a little.
2. He was in the carpool lane. I don't know about the rest of the country, but CA takes it carpool lanes seriously, and the fine for getting caught driving in one during carpool hours while not being a carpool is pretty steep.
I could see that the guy was getting angry at being stuck behind me, but 1. I was where I was supposed to be; he was not. 2. I wasn't going to try to slow down 15-20 mph to get into the regular traffic flow just so that he could break the law.

Yes, it's breaking the law to speed. Traffic-related deaths are still, as far as I know, the #1 cause of non-natural deaths in the United States. Most of these are caused by substance abuse or speeding or both. When you are speeding and a cop pulls you over, he is not the bad guy; you are. He should not be off somewhere stopping a "real crime," because that is what he is doing. Pulling you over for speeding is much more likely to be saving your life and the life of some victim of your stupidity and selfishness than anything else that cop could be doing. I get that you don't like getting caught doing something wrong, but, when you get pissed off about it and blame the cop, you're acting just like a teenager yelling at his/her parents for breaking some household rule. Grow up. When you do, you will understand.

Just by the way, when I'm going the speed limit--and I am never intentionally going over the speed limit (and only very rarely am I doing it by accident)--and you pull up behind me getting all pissy because I won't break the law by speeding up or  won't slow down and thus facilitate you in breaking the law, it makes me want to slow down and match the speed of the traffic in the other lane anyway, just to piss you off even more. [I don't do that, but, my gosh!, it makes me want to!]

Aside: The fast lane is not for speeding. Don't you even think that it is. The fast lane is for people who want to go the speed limit. The slow lane is for people that don't want to go the speed limit. When I am in the fast lane and I am going the speed limit, I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I don't care if you want to go faster. I don't care if there are 20 of you behind me that want to go faster. It is not my job to facilitate the wrong you want to do. When I am going the speed limit, I am not the "slow driver;" you are the "too fast driver."

Anyway, finally, for whatever reason, there was a break in the (much) slower traffic to my right, and the guy behind me dodged into the hole, causing the person he cut off to have to slow down even more, and sped around me, narrowly avoiding me and the car just in front of him. The whole time he was doing this, he had his left arm fully extended from his window, flipping me off. He was going at least 80 as he accelerated away from me. He was not the only one to exhibit this kind of behavior, but he was certainly the worst.

Now, I am not really talking about traffic issues here. They are just the illustration of the problem. We here in the United States have come to think that we are entitled to do whatever we want. All the time. Not only should we be allowed to do whatever we want, other people should enable us in our desires to do whatever we want. All the time. Even when those things we want to do are wrong. Even if those things we want to do have the potential to hurt other people. Or even if they will hurt other people. Or the world. Or whatever.

You want to talk about trickle down effect; well, this is where it really works. The rich, who got even richer during the recent recession while everyone else got poorer, exercise their "entitlement" all the time, and everyone else sees them doing it, getting whatever they want whenever they want it, and we decide we want that, too. And we really don't tend to care whom we may hurt to get the things that we want. So we end up with dead teenage boys on a city street. Or we end up with a four car collision during rush hour. Or any number of other things, all because we want what we want and we want it now.

Tell me, how many of you actually like the character of Veruca Salt? And, yet, that's exactly how Americans tend to act. All the time.

And it's wrong. All the time.

So, when I'm driving down the freeway in the fast lane and going the speed limit, no, I will not move over for you. And, no, I don't care if there are 20 of you backed up behind me. The weight of your numbers and desire to get what you want doesn't make it right. It doesn't. And, no, it doesn't matter how many of you start eating rocks, I'm not going to do that, either. [If you understand that reference, you will earn major points. I may have to develop a system whereby people can actually earn points and trade them in for stuff. Virtual points don't do anyone any good. (No, Briane, you can't have my idea.)] And, no, just because 90% of you (or more) want to think that comma usage is "subjective" and you should get to put them wherever you want, it doesn't make it correct. Nor does calling stuff poetry that doesn't meet the definition of poetry make it poetry. Also, starting in the middle of the action and skipping all the exposition in your story just because it's popular to do it that way, right now, that's not right, either. If you leave out the exposition and most of the rising action, you don't actually have a full story; you have part of one; I don't care how long it is.

What I'm saying here is this:
Lots of people being wrong about something doesn't by sheer numbers make it right. I didn't bow to that kind of peer pressure when I was in high school, and I'm not about to start now, so, go ahead, exercise that finger all you want.


  1. I agree with everything, except the part about "the fast lane is not for speeding."

    There's a reason a lot of roads say "slower traffic, move over". The far left lane, which is typically the fast lane (and carpool lanes become fast lanes outside of carpool hours) is for people to do whatever. I'm not saying LEGALLY. I'm saying, if you're in the far left lane, and someone comes up on your bumper, going faster, AND you have the ability to move over to the right lane safely (i.e. it isn't rush hour, you don't need to be in that lane), then you should be moving over.

    While speeding does cause plenty of accidents, so does driving too slow, or not obeying traffic laws in general.

    If I want to go 5-10mph over the speed limit when traffic permits, and you don't NEED to be in the fast lane (far left), move. Simple as that.

    ALSO, in many other states, I believe the far left lane is legally designated the "passing lane" in which people are only allowed to pass other cars. If police catch you driving in it for extended periods of time, you get pulled over.

    Anyway, <3

  2. I agree with your sentiment about sheer numbers of people wanting to do something that is wrong won't make it right. (And I can think of a lot of examples...)
    Since it was the carpool lane, you were in the right. But agree with Josh above about the passing lane and slower traffic keep right. I don't drive like a jerk but I am one of those zooming along at ten miles over the speed limit. Often more.

  3. I don't know about the rest of the country, but CA takes it carpool lanes seriously

    We regularly have police that squat at the carpool lane, just counting passengers as they drive by to make sure no one's taking advantage of this. Fun fact: About 5 years ago in my city, they actually pulled over a guy who had built a mannequin to look like a second person so he get away with using the carpool lane. It took the police forever to notice. But when they did, they were so amused by it they took pictures and it made the news.

    Tillie the Westminster Carpool Dummy

    As for speeding in a single, designated lane, I absolutely agree with you. If I'm going the speed limit, don't ride my ass. Yes, it's annoying when you're driving on a single lane (including car pool) and the guy in front of you is going 10 mph under the speed limit. That sucks. But if I'm going the speed limit, piss off. I'm not going to go into the shoulder or break the carpool lane just to let you fly by because you want to get an extra .02 seconds to work.

    Also, I've just gotta say, speed can be dangerous, but so can going well under the speed limit, because they force people to continually pass them. And when you get a wave of people that are changing lanes, you increase the chance that someone's going to hit someone else.

  4. Andrew, you are right about traffic speeding. I think you are generally right in the conclusions you draw. Not long ago I was reading a blog where the lady said one of her pet peeves was having to wait in line while an old person wrote out a check. It seems there is a lack of consideration for people. You either get out of the way or get cussed out.

    About the commas and know I'm not going to agree with you. Not totally anyway. I think grammar and writing is not a static thing. If it were we would still be saying "thee" and "thou." That said, I think writers should try to meet acceptable standards if there is no reason they should not. Sometimes there is a reason. For example, if I were writing a story in first person as hillbilly, I would not want to use correct grammar. Yeah, that's extreme. It doesn't always have to be such a valid reason though, sometimes it can be just for fun.

  5. I hate driving. I feel like the road is full of egotistical, selfish people who have no consideration for the health and safety of the others on the road. I got t-boned at an intersection when a guy speeding ran a red light. My light had turned green and I was almost across the intersection when he plowed into me. Totaled my beloved car, but it was a Volvo, so I walked away, but to the hospital with every part of my spine severely sprained from neck to lower back. Took me 6 months to heal. I don't enjoy driving, or riding in a car at all anymore and it's that idiot's fault.
    Entitlement is a huge problem, and when I see it in my kids it's something I deal with seriously.
    Well written, well argued piece, Andrew.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  6. General comment: I hear what you're all saying about moving over if there's traffic going faster than you. And I get that. I do. Personally, I don't drive in the "fast lane" unless I'm going faster than the cars in the "slow lane," which is saying something, since I don't speed. However, as I stated, IF I am going the speed limit AND I am in the fast lane AND people are trying to pass me, I am not the problem. IF I am going the speed limit, I am not, by definition, going "too slow." That's just how it is. IF people obeyed the traffic laws, there would be no problem. Which is not to say that accidents would quit happening, but almost all "accidents" occur because someone is breaking the law, whether it's speeding, texting, substance abuse, or whatever.

    And the whole thing about going under the speed limit is a totally different subject and not what I'm talking about.

    Josh: Man, I don't think I've seen you on the blog in, well, since the beginning. heh

    Alex: Now, I want to ask you how many tickets you've gotten...

    ABftS: I've seen a few stories about things like that. There was some guy out here doing something like that, too. But with a balloon, I think? I don't remember.

    There was this one time in college where some friends of mine and I left a place at the same time going to the same place about 50 miles away. We both had full cars of people. The other car was being driven by a guy that was always speeding, so they, of course, left us behind pretty quickly. The people in my car pissed and moaned about how they were going to beat us there. But I didn't speed. And, when we got there, they had beaten us by enough time to just then be getting out of their car as we pulled up. So, yeah, I'm not impressed with the idea of speeding to get somewhere sooner.

    David: Sure, if you're writing dialogue (and first person is, essentially, dialogue), you should tailor your writing for the effect you want. However, if you're writing narrative, you should follow the rules. The point is that deliberately breaking the rules because you want to create something specific is more like speeding because you have a snake bite victim in the car, and you're trying to get to a hospital. Most people, though, do not break the rules deliberately or with purpose; they break the rules because they don't know any better (and, usually, don't want to bother to learn them), and that is more the way people speed, except they do know better, they just don't care.

    Tina: That's because that's what the road is full of. Most studies about driving behavior back that up, too, and, the larger the vehicle someone is in, or the faster, the more likely they are to figure they don't need to follow the rules or take other people into consideration.
    [That's not an opinion that I am offering up, everyone. That's something that numerous studies have shown.]

  7. I agree with most of the things in this post. Thanks for sharing your views.

  8. I agree in principal - I've taken the philosophy that I don't know what the circumstance is for the person speeding - so I tend to use the left lane only to pass. I don't come across carpool lanes very often driving locally though - so it isn't an issue. I did have an incident with a trucker once who (not being allowed to use the left lane by law) thought the middle lane was the 'I get to go as fast as I want lane,' I got so mad at him for flipping us off - only my son, aged 5 at the time, noticed it - that I shouted at the man to pull over so I could settle this once and for all.

    He kept driving. I feel fortunate because who knows what that could have escalated into. But still - he was wrong.

  9. Gina: I agree with most of your comment, also. :P

    Rusty: No, you can't know, but you can be pretty sure if the driver is a young, white male he's not speeding for any good reason. That's just the sad truth. And all of the driving statistics back it up. Which would be why insurance rates are higher for that demographic.

    I had a friend that got merged on by a trucker. Just moved over right onto him and smushed his car up against one of those concrete dividers. Guy never stopped.

  10. Why is it the people who drive so insanely are the ones who are so pissed at how others are driving? And I think the question just answered itself.

    It's kind of true in anything. The people who aggressively pursue something are the ones who flip out when, horror of horrors, someone does not want to adhere to their ideas of how the world should work (which always means how it works best for THEM).

  11. However, as I stated, IF I am going the speed limit AND I am in the fast lane AND people are trying to pass me, I am not the problem. IF I am going the speed limit, I am not, by definition, going "too slow." That's just how it is. IF people obeyed the traffic laws, there would be no problem.

    Like I said, if you're in the fast lane, it doesn't matter if you're going 10mph over the posted limit - if someone comes up on your butt doing 20mph over, get out of the way if you're able to safely. End of discussion.

    You can talk all you want about them breaking the law, you're not the problem, etc. etc. - but the fact remains, you are injecting your own sense of self importance by staying in the lane "because you're not the problem", just as they are by speeding and flipping out when you don't move. If the person wants to speed, it's not up to you to stop them or get in the way. I've watched people do this and in most cases, it causes the speeder to zig zag out of traffic, putting everyone around at risk.

    Now, in the example you wrote out in the original post, you were 100% in the right. When a carpool lane is in effect, it is just that - NOT a fast lane.

    At the end of the day're just another Prius driver, though. So I can't expect you to fully understand.

    (Full disclosure: I drove a Prius for 4 months, then gave it to my mom - I've since recovered). :)

  12. Jeanne: It doesn't even have to be all the aggressive. It's anytime anyone believes they're entitled to something and Americans tend to think they're entitled to everything.

    Josh: I never said anything about not moving over. However, the truth about that is that many of those people come up so fast and have such impatience that there never is time to move over. So, if I'm in the "fast lane" going 65 because the "slow lane" is moving at 60 and someone comes up on me doing 80, -I- am not the problem. To say that I am is equivalent to saying that the guy that gets mugged was at fault for walking down the street.
    The person doing the wrong is choosing to do the wrong; it's not someone else's fault for "making" him to do it.

    And, in the above incident, I was not driving the Prius. Mostly, I don't drive the Prius.

  13. I'm a 10 Kms more driver, and I hate someone sitting on my tail when I am doing the speed limit, but I will pull over if there is a safe place to do so.

  14. Jo: See, that's just rude when people do that. If they did that to you in a supermarket, you could have them moved, but people feel like they don't need to follow rules when they're in a car.

  15. Good for you for not bowing. But gosh darn it's frustrating. Down in FLA peeps drive like crapola. They love to cut you off, then flick you off when you beep your horn to tell them there's no room for them to slide in. So much hatred, it's no wonder road rage exists. Thankfully I work from home now and never have to deal with rush hour.

  16. Pk: It is frustrating. I can't wait till cars drive themselves and we take the human element out of it.

  17. "...the guy behind me dodged into the hole, causing the person he cut off to have to slow down even more, and sped around me, narrowly avoiding me and the car just in front of him. The whole time he was doing this, he had his left arm fully extended from his window, flipping me off. He was going at least 80 as he accelerated away from me."

    Oh, I hate that guy on your behalf! My husband likes to stab the empty buttons on his Honda Civic's dash and pretend he is torpedoing bad drivers. It is cathartic.

    May your carpool lane be stress-free from here on out.


  18. TS: I have always wanted one of those big cartoon sledgehammers to come out of my roof.