This column was originally published at Pick Wayne’s Brain.
Here are three more driver types who seem to live to make life miserable for the rest of us who have some place to be and not all that much time to get there. They are the Passhole, the Zippy, and the Creeper. [The other posts in this series cover The Pacer, Turn Signals, and The Pokey and The Gapper.]
I’ve been encountering a lot of Passholes lately. The Passhole is that guy who just won’t go more than one or two miles an hour faster than the trucks (though sometimes cars) he’s right next to and allegedly passing, but who then moves over once he has eventually passed the truck or ten-plus line of cars and then speeds up! He’s just too afraid to pass others on the highway. It’s frustrating because right up until he starts to get even with those big trucks or line of cars, he’s fine with doing the correct speed for the left lane. But then he drops down about ten miles an hour or so as he slowly inches his way beside the people he’s supposedly passing (but won’t actually pass this week) until he finally gets past the first vehicle in the row. Then he steps on the gas or, worse still, he moves over into the other lanes and speeds up. I don’t understand this behavior at all. Look, if you’re afraid of the big trucks on the highway then I have two things to tell you. First, the interstate highway system was built for them, not you. Second, if you’re so afraid of the damn truck, then speed up and get past it faster! But Passholes don’t just fear trucks, they fear everyone. I’ve been behind Passholes several times this week (which is one reason I was inspired to finally write about them), and their driving tactics leave me scratching my head (or making other gestures with my hands), which is easier to do when you’re driving slowly. (Yes, 65 MPH is slow on a highway built when the speed limit was 75 MPH.) What is the problem? Why do they slow down so much? (It’s highly noticeable.) It’s not because they’re afraid of the cops. I know some people think the cops won’t single you out if you’re doing the same speed as the car next to you, but these people speed up when their car finally goes past the people next to them. So it’s not out of a fear of the cops. It’s not the high speed that concerns them because they were going faster before they got next to them and sped up when they got past. If they’re afraid of something, why prolong their exposure to it? Why not just keep going the same speed they were and get past it that much faster? I’d be happy to pass them so they’re no longer in my life, but they speed up when it’s clear and make that damn near impossible without going 90 MPH. And in all honesty, I try not to go 90 MPH though I find it necessary at times. But sometimes Passholes don’t like it when people pass them, which I find a little strange. I would think they would be happy to get out of the way of my angry eyes and hand gestures, but, no, they want to prolong everyone else’s suffering. Because as soon as they get up to the cars now ahead of me in the right lane, they’ll slow down again and not leave me a chance to move over in front of them. They’re such Passholes. At least they’re not dangerous Zippies.
Now you may call me a “leadfoot” (after which I’d stomp on your foot, thus ending the debate once and for all as to whether or not my feet are really made of lead), but I’m no Zippy. The Zippy is that driver who not only drives fast but who darts in and out of the other cars, often leaving little room between himself and the person he’s terrorizing. It’s easy to figure out he has some kind of death wish, it’s just hard to figure out whose death he wishes. I once had a Zippy cut right in front of me to get around people in the right-hand lane, and I had to swerve and brake a bit to make sure we didn’t collide. I can’t be certain we wouldn’t have if I didn’t do that, but I am certain it wouldn’t have smelled too good in my car. What truly angered me (apart from getting cut off so near-disastrously) was that the driver, clearly having seen what happened in his rear view mirror, was pounding his arm against the top of the passenger seat as if he was laughing at the near calamity he had caused. If I speed up to get around someone, I don’t also make it an all-or-nothing proposition where I endanger everyone around me just because my ego won’t let me get beaten. I don’t have an ego; I have depression. If I can see from doing the mental Calculus that I won’t be able to do it safely I slow down, back off, get back behind the guy and began showing him the sign language I invented for just such an occasion. Speaking of Calculus, did you know that when you drive your brain automatically uses Calculus, whether or not you have ever taken the course in school? The Calculus was invented to solve equations where things change relative to each other, or to find the area under a curve, and other uses. If you know the velocity of a car coming toward you at an intersection and its distance from you, and if you know how many seconds it would take you to pull out and get up to driving speed, you could calculate whether or not it was safe to pull out. And though you don’t perform the actual calculations with actual numbers, you still do the rough estimates in your head and say, “I can make it.” And most of the time you’re right. We hope. I certainly do when I’m the guy coming toward you at that intersection. Please, don’t pull out in front of me if it looks like I’m driving faster than you plan on going. I’m gobsmacked by the people who see me tooling along, often faster than the posted speed limit (I admit it; like you, I’m a minor criminal), and still decide to pull out in front of me. My primary strategy when driving to work is to get to the next intersection before someone who might want to drive slower than I wants to pull out ahead of me. Especially a school bus. In my hometown, the local school bus will stop at every house along this one hill leading down into the village. Why those kids (and we’re not talking about elementary school kids, these are middle school or higher) can’t all gather at one stop at the bottom of the hill is beyond me. Instead we stop, wait thirty seconds, then drive seventy-five feet where we stop again, wait thirty seconds, then drive another seventy-five feet where we stop and wait again. At least that bus then pulls over to the side and lets us pass him. Otherwise you might have ended up reading my name in the paper for killing a local school bus driver. What’s worse than being behind a school bus is having a Creeper in between you.
The Creeper is the guy who slows down as he comes up on something, but not so he can brake when he gets there, but so he can move forward very slowly and never have to come to a complete stop. I don’t know if this is somehow supposed to save on gas or something and I don’t care. Just stop it! And especially stop doing it on the highway. Believe it or not, you’re only causing the same problem to happen behind you. When a Creeper does his thing behind a line of slow moving traffic, the cars behind him are approaching him at normal highway speeds (65 MPH.) They are suddenly forced to slow way down and begin crawling along behind him. So the same kind of obstruction ahead of him is beginning to form directly behind him. Think of a garden hose pouring water into a funnel. The hose is set to the optimum point where water flows down out of the funnel at the same rate at which it enters. (The Calculus can be used to determine how much water is in the funnel at any given point, but you won’t need it for this thought experiment.) Now that it’s at equilibrium, try putting a half cork in the bottom of the funnel, blocking about half of it but letting water flow through the bottom. Don’t change the rate at which water enters the funnel. Now see what happens. The water level in the funnel begins to rise. It rises because less water is flowing out of the bottom of the funnel than is flowing in. Eventually the water will reach the top of the funnel and if you don’t want it to overflow, you’ll have to turn down the hose, or possibly even turn it off. The cork represents the Creeper, and the water coming out of the hose represents the cars approaching him at a much higher speed. If they don’t want to crash into the cars ahead of them (overflow the rim of the funnel), they’ll have to slow way down or even stop (turn the hose down or off.) As if it couldn’t be worse, once the obvious cause of the slowdown has been passed, the Creeper is often slow to pick up speed again. He also won’t move into the right hand lane and sometimes when he does, he speeds up and becomes a Pacer.
I ask you. Are these people really necessary?
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the bad drivers you’ve encountered, or any other topic you wish. Just don’t slow me down.