Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Driving in the Slow Lane

In the few months between graduating from college and moving to Wichita Falls, TX to begin my years on active duty in the Air Force, I spent my time visiting family that I had seen but rarely while I was at school.  During that time, I visited my parents in Charleston, SC, where my father was working at the time.  At the end of the weekend, my mother and I planned to drive separate vehicles to my mother’s cousin’s home near Columbia to attend a family reunion.

Because I had not been to my second cousin’s home in several years, I planned to follow my mother to the reunion. However, my mother, being my mother, missed the entrance to the freeway.  I, being, well, me, rather short-sightedly chose to not follow her through the back streets of Charleston. As a result, I found myself driving north on the interstate without a guide or a clue as to how to reach my desired destination. Because this was before mobile phones became an ever-present fixture in our daily lives, I was in a bit of a pickle.

Now, my mother had carted me around for a good part of my life to that point, so I knew well her propensity to, let’s say, take a liberal interpretation of the posted speed limit. Consequently, I was fairly confident that she would overtake me if I kept my speed below 65 mph. However, after about 20 minutes of driving, having seen neither hide nor hair of her blue Pontiac, I started to get concerned that I would pass our exit before she caught up to me. So, I lowered my speed to 55 mph, and entered another world.

It had never occurred to me, as I zipped down the highway at my standard “5 to 10” above the speed limit, that many of the cars flashing by my passenger window in a blur of color were, in fact, part of a hidden community of blessed souls who are perfectly happy in a 55 mph world. Used to the ever-changing parade of vehicles I would briefly pass when driving 70, I was surprised to find myself in the company of several other drivers equally spaced in the “slow lane” of the highway. As the minutes passed, I began to feel a sense of camaraderie with my fellow travelers, unconcerned by the cars rushing past as I enjoyed the late-summer scenery of the South Carolina low country.

After a while, I was startled out of my meditation by a flash of blue as my mother flew past me. With a small sense of regret, I silently bid goodbye to my companions of the past 15 minutes, pushed the accelerator, and resumed my rush down the highway to my destination.

I’m not sure if there’s a moral to this story. But, somehow, it seems to me there should be.

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