Can Someone Please Explain This...?
Scientific studies of the driving brain tell us that driving lulls you into a meditative state.
This always made sense to me. When having trouble sleeping, or just thinking through a problem, I've always instinctively hopped into my car for 20 or 30 minute drive. No particular destination in mind – I just drive. In addition to lulling me into a driving-induced Zen state, driving without trying to get anywhere frees you to focus on strange things we all do behind the wheel and makes you realize that they make absolutely no sense.
During my many drives, I've noticed some weird things - some unexplainable, some just plain dumb.
For instance: The Cop Trap.
Why does everyone on the motorway drive the same speed as the police car even if he’s driving 60 mph?
The mere sight of a police car can cause a butt clench. Put a cop car in the middle of traffic and everyone within 50 feet is on their best behaviour. This creates an impenetrable wall of do-gooders that encase the cop in a pocket of meandering drivers petrified of breaking the law.
The cop's aura of authority threatens everyone nearby into being model citizens. I suspect it's because no one is at all sure if a cop can pull you over for speeding if they're driving next to you. The assumption people seem to make is: They're a cop, and therefore they're probably traveling at the proper speed. If I match that speed, I'm fine. If I pull ahead of them, I'm speeding and will get done.
I doubt cops can pull you over for that, and judging by the number of times I've seen this happen - and have taken part in - I'm certain a majority of people are just as clueless as I am. I could Google it, then confirm or deny it in this blog post - but why? Why take the chance of ruining something that's so fun to watch?
For miles a cop will hover behind these ass-draggers until they get fed up with everyone trying make themselves look extra-special-good, like students pretending they're thinking really hard when the teacher walks around, only to cheat off the kid next to them when the teacher passes. The cop moves on to another portion of the traffic flow, where they will most likely get stuck behind another cavalcade of suck-ups.
Cops probably have to sit through that every day, multiple times a day. Random, senseless police brutality is a little easier to understand all of a sudden.
Another eerie phenomena is The Creeping Stampede of Drivers.
Just as the tides of the sea ebb and flow, so goes the fluctuation of traffic surrounding you as you drive. The droves of commuters can dwindle to a few and then ratchet up to droves again. In beautiful yet rare moments, you are the only car on the road. It's strange; it feels like everyone except you poofed and reduced to neat piles of dust with a set of eyes on top. Maybe you swerve a little, or speed, or roll your windows down and play that Kelly Clarkson song you like but are too ashamed to play with the same reckless abandon when the roads aren't your kingdom to rule. It's the driving equivalent of being in the shower -- it's a gratifying solitude.
For me, this is mostly a late-night thing where after some minutes of basking in the soothing loneliness of an empty motorway, two bright dots appear in your mirrors. Another driver! It's sad to see this alone-time go away so soon, but it's time to relinquish control and share the road.
"Hello, other driver! I kept the road nice and safe! Join me!"
Then, shortly thereafter, a second pair of lights.
“Oh, you brought a friend. That's ... that's fine.”
And another pair.
“Oh, I wasn't prepared for so many guests.”
“OK, come on...”
And yet another.
“Did you people leap out of a time vortex? Where exactly are you coming from?”
The herd of trailing cars barrels toward you like surfers all riding the same wave and you're but a hapless dolt with arm floaties splashing along the shoreline. They close in. Are they marauders? A vicious, Road Warrior-style gang of American Football-padded psychos looking for fresh meat to strap to their car hoods to soften the blow of a crash? If they catch up, will they surround your car, creating a reverse Cop Trap, only to speed away seconds later, leaving your car stripped and on breeze blocks, yet still traveling at 90 mph?
The panic peaks as the stampede envelopes you, reminding you of a drop of water engulfing all drops in its path as it marches down the side window. This is it. Whoever they are, you are at their mercy. Take me, oh ye callous ignorers of speed limit signs! Consume me to appease your god of speed!
They pass. En masse, as if you were never there, they pass. They pass, and travel onward to the next lonely driver some miles up the road; to another person singing another Kelly Clarkson song equally as catchy as the one you hate to admit you like.
And, of course, we mustn’t forget - The Driving Buddy.
Once the excitement of a road trip has faded (after about an hour), after all passengers realize the many hours to come will just be a blur of trees and pavement dotted with the occasional smear of roadkill, everyone mentally checks out and retreats into their personal bubbles of thought. A way to pass the time is to develop a driving buddy outside of the car - a companion driving another car, moving at around the same speed, and in the same direction, maybe even with the same destination.
You don't know who these people are, their stories, or why you're both heading toward the Eurotunnel. None of it matters. You are now friends.
It's basically a symptom of driving-induced insanity. You're so goddamn bored that any form of human contact will suffice. Tom Hanks talks to a volleyball in Castaway because his smeared blood on it makes it look like it has a face. You're driving a long distance, not stranded on an island, so blood-drenched sporting equipment is a little much. So, what the heck?
“Hello, person who doesn't even notice I'm alive! Let's frolic and weave through traffic as if we're two birds mating in mid-air! Oh, the joy we shall have! The places we'll go! I love you, driving buddy! You're my only friend on this desolate strip of road!”
And then they catch you picking your nose and the next 200 miles are a embarassing nightmare.
Can anyone explain how in an almost empty carpark another driver will almost certainly choose to park right next to where you are trying to get out of your car or load groceries so some such thing? Or, perhaps the strangest of all, why is it that in a full car park, whenever you are getting in or out of your own car it is the same time as the people from the very next car also are there trying to get in and out of their car.
It’s all just weird.