Recently, a police officer pulled over a car on a California road only to find no driver at the wheel. It turned out it was a Google self-driving car that was clogging up the roads by driving under the speed limit. Google did not end up paying a fine and the car went on its slow, merry way, but it got me thinking about driving, and the relationship between people and machines.
In a week’s time, we will all be on Thanksgiving break. Whether that means kicking it in Po town, traveling or returning home, a break is crucial right now. For those of us going home, we will enjoy some truly scrumptious non-Deece meals while cringing through the more awkward familial interactions.
If you have a driver’s license and haven’t been sneaking alcohol to make it through family dinner, I suggest driving to a friend’s house or Taco Bell to escape personal questions about your career path, significant other or bedtime habits. Follow Rihanna’s advice here: shut up and drive.
Of all the things I didn’t expect to miss when I went to college, my family and driving are high on the list. After some truly demoralizing experiences at the DMV in southeastern Pennsylvania, it seemed like it was going to be a rough road ahead. However, I’ve found that I definitely enjoy driving. I liked it for all the practical benefits, yes, and the boring cliche ones as well such as having freedoms and responsibility. I had the power to drive myself to Hot Topic, or Wawa whenever I asked my parents nicely to borrow the car!
But I like driving for more than just where I can go. I enjoy the physical actions of driving a car. Sadly, I don’t know how to drive stick-shift, which means I haven’t ever really been able to connect with the transmission of a car the way a drag racer does. However, coaxing the Prius’ small whirring engine to make it up a hill means I have felt some connection to the vehicle.
Both the Prius and I are kind of lame, so we have a good old time together. We are ready to accept each other’s shortcomings; the Prius knows that I mostly use it to get food at inappropriate times, and I accept that flooring it has virtually no effect for six seconds. Still, we make a good man/machine hybrid.
For some people, when they are alone in a car they sing or do other embarrassing stuff. I certainly partake in all of these activities, but I can easily reach my quota for embarrassing musical activity within a confined space during the school year. I’ll spare you the details, but if there is a hidden camera somewhere in the Davison elevator, I fully expect to receive an email from American Idol in the near future.
So what really happens behind the wheel that is different than the elevator music? Is there some type of transformation? Louis CK certainly thinks so. He has a sketch about how much of an asshole he is when he is driving. He says, “I am the worst person I can be when I’m behind the wheel, which is when I’m at my most dangerous.” He goes on to elaborate the awful things he has said to drivers that only marginally piss him off, and how it is probably bad for the health and well-being of other drivers. I agree with Louis that driving definitely brings out some of the deepest characteristics in people, but I don’t think that just has to be road rage.
I don’t have road rage, but I have road condescension. When drivers do stupid things around me, I don’t yell profanities out the window, but quietly mutter the reasons why they suck, and feel a surge of superiority that counteracts the annoyance.
A transcription of my thoughts might be: “Of course you’re just going turn out into both lanes, I knew it,” or “Wow, I see now that you want to turn left, if only there had been some way of signaling that to me!” If Louis CK is right about how driving a car can reveal deep-seated monsters inside of us, maybe my fatal flaw is that I think that I am better than other people. I think it’s more accurate at face value: I think I’m a better driver than other people.