Thursday, July 29, 2004

On The Road Again: Declarations

So on the way to work yesterday morning I got caught behind a Slow Driver. Actually I got caught behind a SUV that was behind the Slow Driver, who had been apparently following the SD for a while before I came up behind the pair of them. The SD was driving below the speed limit even for a rural stretch of road, and I while I could not see the SD, I could see the driver in front of me fuming and bobbing his head and cursing. We've been all been this type of situation, but the fact that I had just joined the procession made me a little more tolerant.

And as we approached the stop light at the end of the road, it was green, but the SD did not rush it. In fact, the SD threw on the brakes (I can tell from the sudden flashes of the SUV driver who THOUGHT the SD was going to at least try to make the light), and the light changed before we got there. Now the SUV driver was really ticked. Leaning out the window and yelling ticked.

The light turns green, and I the SD makes the turn onto the main road, and I can see her for the first time. A small red car with an American Flag in the back window, a couple "9-11, Never Forget " Stickers, and personalized plates that read (and I'm not making this up) "G Bush".

And it made me smile, because if the SUV driver was a Bush supporter before, there was a greater chance that he wasn't one now.

But that underscores in general the foolishness by which people put statements on their cars, then drive in such a way that reflects badly on them, and, by connection, on their declarations and loyalties. I have been cut off in traffic by people with "Save the Whales" stickers, and not only am I mad at them, I'm mad at the whales, and willing to take a couple pot-shots at those big, blubbery, menaces that would cut me off . And its not the whales' (or the President's) fault that someone is screwing around on the highway in their name.

And it goes past just bumperstickers and personalized plates. My very car, a Hybrid, is a statement. So is the SUV from the top of the story. There was a Letter to the Editor page of the Seattle Times, where a driver got really, really angry that the car in front of him in the HOV lanes was (hold onto your hat) doing the speed limit! I know its hard to believe, but since the HOVs are to the left of the "fast lane" of the highway, obviously its the "lightspeed lane", reserved for very fast cars with more than one person (an unwritten rule that I agree with, by the way). What struck me is that the author immediately projected his image of the Hybrid driver (smug, self-satisfied, obeying the letter of the law as opposed to the "spirit of the road") that spilled out in his letter. If it has been a car with Jesus fish, would his ire be as dire? Or a Kerry sticker? Or something about saving those pampered, smug, self-satisfied, krill-hogging whales?

Myself, I find my little Hybrid to be deceptively fast on the highway, and plan not only to try out the "spirit of the road" argument (that was in his Letter) the next time I'm stopped by the traffic cops, but to keep that editorial handy as proof that I'm just trying to dispel horrible stereotypes about Hybrid owners. In the meantime, I'm think about giving the SUV owners (who have their own image problems) a break on the highway, and not assume that just because you're driving one, you are automatically a short-tempered hazzard to everyone who crosses you. You have to pay more per mile than I do in gas, and, worse yet, you get caught behind Bush-supporters who brake when approaching a green light. Isn't that punishment enough?

More later,