Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Driving Slow

Quick disclaimer: I realize that "correct" American usage rules would dictate that that title read "Driving Slowly," but I feel like turning "slow" into an adverb paints a different image in the reader's mind than the one I intend. So there.

Saturday I woke up at the ungodly hour (for a college student on a Saturday) of 7:30 am in order to make my 8:30 am dentist appointment. It was just a bit too early for me, so instead of getting up and into the shower like a good boy, I reset my alarm for 7:45 am and rolled over. I don't know what I was thinking. My appointment was in Riverton, and since I live in Provo, I really should have been getting in the car to leave at 7:45 am in order to make it in plenty of time. But in my sleep-addled state I believed myself Superman and didn't worry about being on time. I eventually got out of bed at 7:50 am and realized the predicament I'd put myself in. Shamefully I admit that when I'm late in the morning I'll sometimes forgo the brushing of teeth, and instead I chew gum until I can get around to it later. I know, I'm disgusting. Unfortunately this wasn't an option since I was going to the dentist. So I showered quickly, brushed my teeth thoroughly (twice) and by the time I ran out to my car it was 8:10 in the am.

Needless to say I drove rather quickly up the interstate. Luckily it was still early enough on a Saturday that there wasn't too much traffic, and I arrived at the office of Dr. B. Charles Push, D.D.S. at 8:40 in the am. The drive, while relatively traffic-less, was kind of stressful for me. See, I don't really like driving too fast. Generally I don't really like driving at all, but I especially hate it when I'm late to something that's pretty important, like a dentist appointment I guess, and I feel pressure to drive more aggressively and quickly than I'm comfortable. Maybe it's the fact that I've been in 4 accidents in the past 4 years, 3 of which totaled the car and none of which was my fault, but I tend to be a fairly cautious driver.

As you're reading this you're probably thinking to yourself, "Sam's such a square. I mean, what 26 year old man doesn't love to drive fast? That's the kind of thing that's written on the Y chromosome, isn't it?" Well, the fact is I haven't taken a science class for several years now, and I barely scraped by with a B in Biology so I can't tell you the answer to the chromosome bit of that question. As for being a square, I guess that I'll have to own up to that one. I mean, I do go faster than the speed limit on a regular basis, and I even got a speeding ticket once. But I'm nothing like my buddy Rob who once, at 6:30 pm on Thursday, got us from my place in Provo to a concert in Salt Lake in some ridiculous amount of time like 35 minutes or so. He definitely was going over 100 mph at one point. It was a thrilling ride, an enjoyable ride even, but in that moment I knew that it was something I'd probably never do were I in the driver's seat, even if my car could do that.

Anyway, The dentist appointment went off without a hitch -- no cavities -- and I got back in my car for the drive home. As I pulled out onto Redwood Road, I started thinking about my earlier drive that had brought me up to Riverton. I really hadn't driven all that fast. I mean, I probably topped out at 85 mph, but even so it had been fairly stressful. So I decided to try something unheard of in today's society. On the drive back to Provo I decided that I was going to obey the speed limit very strictly both on the freeway and surface streets.

I know, you're probably rolling your eyes right now thinking, "So Sam's one of those idiots that's always making me late to things,"  and images like this are being conjured up in your mind:

I'm flattered at your depiction of me as an old man, and apparently yes I am one of those idiots. Or at least I was Saturday morning. But let me tell you, it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I'm not even joking. See, I knew what my limit was on the freeway, and I knew that no one else was going to drive as slow as I was, so I was able to set my cruise at 65 mph while in the rightmost lane and away I went. It was wonderful. Where usually while driving the freeway I'm thinking about how I can get around the car in front of me or worrying about the car behind me that's clearly approaching at a rate of travel much faster than my own, I was at peace with myself not worrying about others. I'm always trying to negotiate how fast is too fast and how fast is too slow and how can I strike a good balance without making everyone around me angry. But on Saturday, I just set the cruise, put on a podcast and enjoyed the ride. That's not to say I was completely oblivious to traffic around me, but the thing was I didn't feel any pressure to adjust to the outside conditions of traffic because everyone else was driving faster than me and they all either went around me or matched my speed behind me.

As I reached the construction in Pleasant Grove and I reduced my speed to 55 mph, I realized another thing. Not only was I not having to stress about the traffic around me and how I fit in to the crowd, I also didn't have the stress of knowing that if I were to be pulled over by a cop, they would have every right in the world to write me a ticket because I was inarguably going over the speed limit. My conscience was clear and I could just sit back and allow the sweet sound of Ira Glass' voice to wash over me. It was one of the most enjoyable drives ever.

Now don't get me wrong here. I wasn't driving down the road thinking to myself that I was all superior to the rest of the drivers who were passing me, or anything like, "Those crazy lunatics are going to get us all killed if they don't slow down." Rather I recognize that everyone has to drive however they're comfortable. If, like my buddy Rob, that means screaming down the road as fast as you can, so be it. If it means puttering along like an old grandpa, by all means.

I got back to my apartment in Provo and couldn't believe how wonderfully stress-free I felt. I decided that I was going to drive slow more often. And I kept that resolution right up until the next morning when I was late to church and had to go 40 in a 25 just to get there without being too late.


  1. A note on your disclaimer:

    Grant Boswell once announced to a class full of students, "There are no rules, only judgment calls."

  2. Yeah, well, I have news for Grant Boswell. It is amazing what an exhilarating feeling a clear conscience can give one. After having experienced that euphoria once, I cannot understand how anyone can possibly not do everything possible to feel it again and again.
    On another topic: Driving fast probably is written on the Y chromosome, but I am firmly convinced that that particular gene, in your case, was brushed, knocked, jolted, slammed, washed, and/or scraped off by a 4-wheeler in Idaho. Hmmmm, yep, I do believe so.