So, my plane gets in (sans luggage, which apparently is somewhere in the corn belt), I pick up my car (which I had to leave in hourly parking because I was running so late, and which has now run up a bill of $1940.00), and head for home. After fighting the California freeway traffic for a week, I find drivers are just as competitive at home. I don't consider myself competitive behind the wheel. True, one of my psychiatrists claims I have a Type Double A personality, which means I constantly rant, scream and curse at other vehicles, even when I’m riding the city bus, but that’s not being competitive--that’s normal human nature.
So I'm tooling along on I-95 doing 65, when suddenly I find myself behind some guy who's doing 64. Which would be no big deal, except that I sense he's doing this solely to irritate me. And the most annoying part is the way he keeps looking straight ahead as he drives, as if he doesn’t even know I'm alive. A tense hatred wells up within my being, a hatred that can be extinguished only if I manage to get past this Nazi Satan-worshiper before I reach my exit. So I pull into the passing lane and up my speed to 70. And surprise! So does he. His speed had been so steady he must have been using cruise control, but now suddenly he's Richard Petty.
I hit the gas. Eighty. Eighty-five. He's still holding me off! One minute he’s a full mile-an-hour below the limit; the next minute he’s Leadfoot, ready to duel to the death. No way am I going to give him the satisfaction of pulling back behind him in order to make my exit, not when I can get off the Interstate further on and then double back. So I floor the accelerator. Ninety. Ninety-five. One hundred. I can’t get a lead on the guy. In my younger days I would have simply side-swiped him and run him off the road, but I have more self control now, self control gained through a slow mellowing process, and through paying $80,000 a year in insurance premiums.
Just when I'm thinking I might have to drive all the way to Maryland to get around this clown, I get the break I need. Up ahead of me, in my lane, is a tractor trailer doing about 115. At first I think he's going to slow me down, but then we hit a downgrade and the truck starts doing 150. I draft him for a few seconds, and then do one of those stock car slingshot maneuvers around him on the shoulder, and when I come back onto the Interstate I have a 1-car-length lead on Leadfoot. I quickly veer in front of him just in time to swerve off the highway three exits too late, and I have to slam on my brakes to slow down in time, even though the exit ramp is a half mile long.
Back on the highway, Leadfoot drops down to 64 again.
Life is filled with these brief episodes, and if we can only learn from them when they come up, we’ll all be better off. One thing I’ve learned, of course, is this: I gotta get a faster car!