Thursday, March 23, 2006

Driving Miss Lucy

This post has nothing to do with Lucy. I just liked the title. What I really want to talk about is my driving. In my 10 years of holding a drivers license I've noticed that there are several classes drivers fall into. There are Utah drivers, elderly drivers, Ballard drivers (inside joke to those of us from Seattle), stupid drivers, aggressive drivers, and overy polite and cautious to the point of being dangerous drivers. I guess there is the middle of the road "normal" driver, who follows the traffic rules but doesn't mind going a few miles over the speed limit. I tend to think of myself as one of the latter. However, every time I go to Seattle I realize that I am a Utah driver.

Ok, I'm not really a Utah driver, I mean I spend enough time making fun of Utah drivers that it would be hypocritical of me to actually be one, right? It's just that I tend to drive fast, weaving in and out of traffic like Batman on the way to save the world. If only my little 1984 Volvo was the batmobile. That would be fun. It would also be fun to have the new Batman suit. I guess there aren't that many bullets flying in my science lab at work- well, except this one time when we made a really strong rubber-like material and my boss wanted to test if it would stop a bullet and well, it didn't, but that's a different story.

My point was that going to Seattle really makes me confront my driving personality. When in Seattle traffic, I find my blood pressure constantly elevated (Jenny can confirm) as I yell at people to get in the right lane if they're only willing to go 50 in a 55. I think most Seattle drivers fall into that catagory I mentioned where they are so cautious and polite that it borders on dangerous. Too many times have I seen a car stopped in the middle of a four lane road, thinking they're being nice to let some pedestrians cross (at a non-crosswalk), when they are really endangering people's lives since drivers in other lanes will probably not see them, thus requiring an appearance by Batman to save them.

There are also the Seattle "Ballard" drivers that I mentioned before. If you do not know what a Ballard driver is, you must not have gone to the "Ballard School of Driving". That was a funny skit on Seattle's version of Saturday Night Live that taught people how to be a Ballard driver: Start by catching your seatbelt in the door such that it drags on the ground, and keep your left blinker on at all times. Make sure you drive 10 mph under any posted speed limit sign, and for heavens sake: follow that dotted yellow line! Thats what they're there for: to drive directly over, not alongside!

Lest you think I'm ranting, no, this post is about my driving, not Ballard drivers' driving or Batman's driving. For one to understand my driving one must go back many years. 1994 to be exact- I was a freshman in high school and had just joined the track team running long distance. I had never thought of myself as a runner, or even athletic. I was always the bench warmer for church ball. The only sport whose rules I knew was dodgeball. I liked nintendo and watching movies, but sports? Yuck! So, much to my surprise I was invited one day by my friends Casey and Rachel (whose sister Julie is a contributor here) to go running with them. I thought- "ok, a few times around the block, stretch a bit, and then eat some sandwiches". What they should have asked me was: "do you want to go running with us to downtown Edmonds which is 3 miles away and down a long steep hill, after which we will return here, running back up said long steep hill?" At which point I would have said "no." As it was, that is not how they asked me, and I soon found myself gasping for air as I trudged up the long steep hill coming back from downtown. It was more like trudge, walk, trudge, walk, trudge, stop, walk, etc., though the trudging part was just as fast as the walking, which was just slightly faster than the stopped. Needless to say they did not invite me to go running again.

As I said before, this post is about my driving, though I have been known to go off on tangents. One such tangent occured in 1996 while on a camping trip with the priests. Interesting sidenote: Julie's dad was our priest's advisor at the time. We hiked into some lake whose name I forget. It was a nice lake, but as Casey and I looked at the map we saw that there was a smaller lake about 3/4 of a mile up a little ravine. So we mentioned in passing to Ben (the advisor) that we were going to go explore it, and if it was nice we (meaning Casey and I) would camp there that night instead. He must have been a saint since all he said was "sure, ok." and we were off. We hiked up to the other lake and it was, in a word, stunning. We got there just at sunset, and since it was nestled right near the peak of a mountain, we had quite a view. We camped on an island in the middle of the lake. We stayed up talking, cooking and playing with fireworks. In the morning as we hiked back, we saw a third set of footprints that we presumed were Ben's as he came to make sure we were safe. What a trip.

Anyway, driving. So Casey and Rachel got me into running. Having been so ashamed of not being able to keep up with a girl I decided to start running on my own. I mentioned this to my social studies teacher who was also the x-country/track coach who then informed me that I would be running on the x-country team the next year, and that to get an A in his class I would have to join the track team then and there. See, x-country is like the Mormon of all sports. It's the true sport in the sense that it is probably the true test of yourself and you're not relying on anyone else to win for you, but its also the sport that gets made fun of a lot by the "real" sports like football and basketball (think Catholics and Evangelicals). At least it's not cheerleading which just cheers all the other sports on (Unitarians), or chess club which isn't even a sport at all (Scientology). So if you tell a x-country coach that you've been running on your own, thats just like telling a Mormon that you've been reading the Book of Mormon a lot recently. The Mormon calls the missionaries who baptize you on the spot, and the coach recruits you without even asking permission.

So started my career as a runner. The only reason I mentioned all of that was to get to the point where I could describe a x-country race. Many people start out really fast and get to the front within a few seconds. Some stay in the front the whole race. Most don't. My coach wanted us to be the runners that start out in the middle, then proceed to pass everyone, because if you're in front the whole time, its like you're defending your spot the entire race, whereas if you're in the middle you're always on offense and passing up the next guy. Its like a lot of short term goals. Just pass that guy, then that one, then the one ahead of him and boom, you've won! So I went through 3 years of x-country and track, always passing people up. I got used to thinking that I needed to be ahead of the next guy in front of me. Once I get in front of him, that's not enough because now there's someone else to pass. You see where this is going. That is how I drive: it's not enough to be going the speed limit, or to get to work on time, the point and spirit of my driving is to be ahead of the next guy. I find that when I'm alone on a street that I usually go the speed limit, maybe a little over. But when I'm with people on a two lane road there is always one more person to pass.

Which is why I think I'm a "normal" driver: its completely normal for me to be passing people. I've done it since 1994. I'm used to it. I'm not hurting anyone. I follow the rules. I don't cut people off. I'm nice. I'm a good driver, I just tend to pass people, thats all.

I always wonder though what the Ballard x-country team was like.


Jared said...

This post was, in a word, amazing. When Nick writes, all tangents lead to Rome. Indeed, I enjoyed reading this much more than the Wright Brothers biography I'm reading right now, much more than the Sarah Vowell essay I read last night. Has Nick always been a great writer? Or has Jenny been remaking him in her figurative image? We all know who started Nick on NPR, after all...

Julie said...

Amen. Doesn’t everyone view driving as a game of out maneuvering other cars? I’ve never really thought about how I developed that tendency, but I certainly have it. I think that I have mellowed out a little since my high school days and I’m a lot more tolerant of slow drivers. Jon on the hand . . .

Jon is the consummate California driver. I never knew this before we were married (funny how some things never surface until its too late), but he is the most impatient driver in the world. When we used to visit Seattle he would always get highly aggravated on the road. One time I tried to calm his nerves by telling him that in the Northwest the pace of life is a lot slower than in San Jose. Since moving to Eugene, he’s had a lot of the slower pace of life. His new favorite phrase while driving is “This slower pace of life is killing me,” which fits in well with his other favorite phrases “Just because you can’t doesn’t mean you should,” (speaking about slow drivers in the carpool lanes) and “I wish I could teach the world to drive.”

Speaking of Jon and driving, he emailed me this link to a San Jose Mercury News article on the subject of slow drivers: I thought it was interesting, Jon thought that it was infuriating; maybe you’ll enjoy it too.

So, I have no idea how to actually make this appear as a link, so there's the address.

Jenny said...

Nick, you weave through the various subplots here with a speed and agility reminiscent of your driving ... :) It's nice to finally have an explanation for something that really has puzzled me--why you always need to pass the person in front of us. What I fail to understand is how you never get a ticket (I know, I know, you have The Force with you when you drive and can make red lights turn green with a kanobian flick of the wrist and therefore you can sense a cop's presence). Because sometimes the people you "must" pass are moving quite quickly, and yet you never get caught. How? Why? How? (Insert increasing anxiety as I review my own driving record ....)

Jenny said...

Oh, and Julie, I thought the link was interesting, especially given the content of this post and the fact that we drive a Honda Civic (non-hybrid). And I'm glad you're here!

Nick said...

Julie- I'm pretty sure where you got your driving tendencies from. Two words: your dad. I think both you and your sister inherited his view that the truck was actually a tank, and therefore could go anywhere and do anything. Hee hee... those were the days....

Do I dare even mention a certain Pasco trip? I think I'll be nice and just remind you of the time I was visiting from Seattle, you picked me up in Sandy around 6:45, and managed to get me to the Marriott Center at BYU by 7:00.

Now that I think about it, all of my most memorable driving experiences were either with you, your sister, or your dad.

JonnyF said...

A causal relationship between your driving habits and your cross country training. . . interesting.
One p-day while we were stuck in the mission office answering phones ("No Elder Dickens, I can't get you a copy of the Book of Mormon in Polish Braille. . . No, not in the Deseret alphabet either.) my companion sat down and wrote a "thesis" detailing the causal relationship between the Warsawites' lives under Soviet rule and their crazy driving tendencies. It was a real work of art, and your post reminds me of it.
This Jon from San Jose is actually a very, well. . . grannyish driver. I don't leave my turn signals on for miles or stop on the freeway on ramp nor am I unnecessarily courteous. I just tend to drive slow. I'm not sure exactly why my first girlfriend broke up with me, so I've decided to believe that this is the reason.