As environments go, it’s hard to find a more diversely populated location than the freeway.
Speed demons. Slow pokes. Vacationing families. CEO’s going to work. Uber drivers. Delivery drivers. That one guy on the motorcycle at midnight doing 120mph like a drunk mosquito.
People who believe blinkers are requests for permission. Others who believe blinkers are signals of intent. People who don’t know their cars even have blinkers (I’m looking at you, BMW owners).
Hipsters. Grandmas. Lookie-loos who slow down for accidents on the other side of the road. Tailgaters. Brake checkers. Texters. Sexters.
Student drivers and driving instructors. Foreign exchange students from countries where people drive on the left. The guy with the two-foot tall spoiler on the back of a ’96 Civic. A soccer mom on her way to the Galleria to return the Hollister shirt her high school son didn’t like. The guy with the picture of his truck, airbrushed on his truck.
Dogs hanging out of windows. Friends in the back of the pickup. Babies on board.
And they’re all driving vehicles that change the way they operate too. Police cars. Rental cars. Dragsters. Beaters. Winnebagos. Eighteen wheelers. Boat trailers. Scooters. SUVs. Transport vans. Ambulances. Jacked up doolies with a window full of stickers about catching fish.
Whatever they haul those giant windmill blades on.
And it would be difficult enough to navigate if everyone was headed the same direction, like if all those people were headed to Dallas from Houston for instance. I mean, everyone’s going to want to stop somewhere different.
I want Buc-cee’s (a Texas staple if you’re unfamiliar). The cop obviously wants something like a pastry – probably fried, with a hole of some sort in it. The stoners want Funyuns and Mountain Dew (they wanted donuts, but you know, the cop is there). There’s another family who’s never taken a road trip where they didn’t stop for tandoori.
People are weird.
And that’s just a straight, three-hour jaunt to Dallas!
But it’s nowhere near that simple. Now sprinkle in the confusion of people constantly entering and exiting this moving stream of metal and humanity. No one on these roads shares a destination. At best, we all share a direction for a brief chunk of time.
Not everyone in my lane has the same goal. In fact, it’s more likely that no one does.
I’m definitely heading somewhere. I have a deadline to hit. I won’t allow myself to be late. The guy in front of me is driving a ’69 Stingray. A convertible. He’s in no rush at all, and why should he be? Of course, as soon as I zip around him, I find the lane blocked by a woman who just decided, at 65, to take her car on the interstate for the first time.
I probably mumble something angry in her direction, a by-product of my own frustration, instead of recognizing the bravery she’s displaying inside that behemoth of a vehicle.
So sure, we honk and we jostle and give the occasional finger. Sure, some people move faster than others, while others are tasked with carrying heavier loads than us, and others still are just out soloing it on a sport bike.
But we do it while piloting 5,000 pound ground level projectiles at seventy mile per hour. That sure seems like a lot of assumed trust among strangers, doesn’t it? And the range! Here, sixteen year old, have a license! And you can keep it until you’re a thousand! Just a shriveled little raisin huddled behind the wheel. It’s amazing that chaos of that magnitude doesn’t have a 100% fatality rate.
Yet somehow it works, because we are all in silent agreement that not coexisting out there will likely end with everyone dead in a big ball of twisted aluminum and fire. It’s strange how well we all function when we’re left to do the right thing on our own.
And it’s the exact kind of thing I try to remember when I get out of the car, too.