Life In The Fast Lane

I drive about 85 miles per day to work and back. I’ve also gone of some pretty long and epic road trips that were hundreds or thousands of miles each. Because of this I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about how we drive and why we drive that way.

Before you think that I’m an anomaly because of how much time I choose to spend on the road, consider this. The average American commutes 25.4 minutes each way to work each day. That means we spend about 51 minutes per day, or just over 212 hours per year, getting to our offices and back.

Contrast that the fact that the average American spends 37 hours per year having sex – about 111 times per year (for couples in their 20s; it decreases by 20% per decade) at 20 minutes including foreplay.

So we spend over 5 times longer sitting in traffic than we do having sex. My point? It’s a significant part of our lives, and it shows.

Driving styles vary widely, from timid to aggressive and aware to oblivious.

I’m fascinated by people who go slow in the fast lane. Every freeway in Southern California has at least 3 lanes on each side, sometimes double that. Without fail, someone will be going the speed limit in the far left lane when the flow of traffic is much faster. The unwritten law is that slower drivers should move to the right. In many states it is written on signs along the freeway or highway.

It’s more than just an act though; it’s almost a lifestyle. There are bumper stickers that say “The closer you get the slower I go.”

And there’s a counterpoint sticker that is meant to be read in the rear-view mirror that says “Stay right.”

You have the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, but the domain is the left lane. Or you could look at as Renaissance philosophers would.

The first group follows the philosophical position of Rousseau – people are inherently good but if you push them too much they will resist.

The second group follows that of Locke – people are inherently self-interested and need to be managed by rules to keep society moving smoothly.

(Of course, these positions aren’t mutually exclusive. People are both generally good and generally self-interested. It just depends how and when we dial those things up.)

The battle for the left lane will continue tomorrow as it did today and yesterday. In hyper-individualistic countries like the US and in places with little or no public transportation like Southern California, it will be more prevalent than in other places because our cars are extensions of us. We create our Selves through a series of little decisions we make every day. Why would our lane choice be any different?