Home Hometown News & Voices BLAKE’S TAKES: Living life in the left-hand lane

BLAKE’S TAKES: Living life in the left-hand lane

Anthony Bourdain once said that traveling changes you, leaves marks on your memory, alters your consciousness, and brings about an understanding that simply aging cannot provide. He was right about most things, but this insight may be the most valuable he left us with during his brief time on Earth. You won’t find a more novice traveler than this author, but on a recent road trip I gained clarity that applies far beyond proper protocol in hotels and gas stations and could be used to solve many of the most immediate issues plaguing our society. 

Let me explain with a quick exercise: picture yourself driving on the interstate. Depending on your personal experiences, you may be envisioning a wide variety of scenery, weather, and even road conditions. No matter your imaginary destination, however, I bet there’s one constant among virtually everyone reading this: you’re in the far-left lane. Don’t lie, it’s just you and me here. You see, everyone thinks they’re a left-lane person in the same way that every guy you’ve ever met thinks he’s funny. It’s become the default setting of our own self-assessment, and in the process, we’ve established a stigma of shame to any other reality. If you’re not a left-lane person, you’re a bad driver. You’re slow. You’re a coward. You’re in everyone else’s way. Surely that can’t apply to you, so the left lane is where you belong. 

But what if it isn’t? What if you aren’t? You’ve undoubtedly noticed that at all but the most obscure hours of the day, any given interstate is crowded and frustrating, with irregular speeds and traffic density peppered throughout the journey. In theory, this shouldn’t happen, right? We’re all supposed to be in the right lane, moving left only to pass a slower vehicle before returning to the right lane. It’s a perfect system, but systems are put into application by human beings. 

Every interstate you’ll ever be on has at least 60 percent of the vehicles in the far left lane, a number that would be even higher if we added the maniacs who constantly swerve across all lanes to pass. Of that 60 percent, at least two-thirds of the drivers are annoyed at the car directly in front of them for going the same speed as the middle lane of traffic. And yet it never seems to cross any of their minds that maybe other people feel that way about them–that maybe they’re in someone else’s way, that maybe they’re holding up traffic or contributing to the problem–that maybe they don’t belong in the left lane. 

It’s hard to hear, I know. You’re a good driver. You’re a fast driver. You get there in an hour and 50 minutes when the GPS says it’s a two-hour trip. If everyone else was better, the way you’re doing it would be perfect and there would be no issue. If it weren’t for the Ohioans or the mini vans or the texting drivers, you’d be sailing smoothly along the open road with your cruise set at a definitely-illegal mark. This article isn’t about you; you’re as frustrated by those people as everyone else. 

You’re right. Hopefully those people will see this. Maybe they’ll apply it to other aspects of their lives. They might even see a connection between this and, say, social media etiquette or parenting their kids. I know we fellow left-laners can understand a metaphor, hopefully they can too. 

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Blake Spires is a high school English teacher, Twitter celebrity (@realfakeblake) and part-time columnist for The County Line.