Driving is the best modern test of intelligence – so goes a maxim of mine. The tailgater, cell phone weaver and dodger, bad merger – these have simply failed a test of basic sensibility, priority, and correct assessment of cause and effect. Something else occurs to me about driving, though – specifically about rush hour.
Look at the desperation with which so many employed persons flee their place of work. Look at the abhorrence, so carefully concealed somewhat earlier (while still in the office), expressed as an almost mindless desire to reach a sanctuary – home, as quickly as possible. They don’t even have the benefit of arguing it’s about maximizing their free time – first, because the driving itself should be free time (they’re not getting paid for it) – second, because of the way they jam up the freeway, causing paralysis to all traffic, by refusing to drive at an even pace (the break lights blink and blink again), and by taking up even the smallest available space to drive on the bumper of the person in front of them. No, it’s not a rational response.
Furthermore, one watches the anger, the vehemence, the barely concealed violence with which some work-fleers snarl at anyone holding them up (e.g. anyone driving as though they own their own experience). Those of us driving on our own time want the experience to be peaceful, do we not? Comfortable, happy – not harried, desperate, vehement, miserable. One can only conclude, therefore, that many of the drivers fleeing the locus of their work not only are not happy about being there, but aren’t happy about anything even remotely associated with it – such as going to and from. Instead of a calm, leisurely, relaxed ride home listening to something uplifting or intelligent, they’re often roaring by, killing their mpg, while playing something more appropriate for bombing villages.
We’re not counting those who are texting while they drive, etc. It’s not fair to pick the least intelligent members of a group for analysis. And it’s not everyone or employees in general. Lots of employees take a leisurely drive home, relaxing, listening to music, not stressed unless crowded by the aggressive drivers around them.
So, I’ve crafted another maxim. A “rule”, if you will. Driving at rush hour is the best test of your attitudes toward (your) work. If your work is not the primary font of meaning in your life, or if you’ve given up on even that possibility, driving in rush hour will be a hell that you inflict on yourselves or others. Hopefully, you don’t drive at rush hour, if you work for yourself – that’s like driving during bar closing – it’s for suckers, if you can avoid it. When I worked in corporate life, some of us would stay late if we couldn’t leave early, just to avoid it. But when you have to, it’s a great venue for broadcasting who you are, how you think, and what your life is about. Driving is a language, like any other, and it telegraphs your basic impulses, your room for self-control, and your real attitudes toward people and life.
I’m a big fan of the job interview where the boss makes you drive during rush hour for a ‘hurried’ rendezvous at the airport. I think it should be rolled out on first dates and when considering making friends of acquaintances. I know that I’ve ruled out friendship or collegial relations with people based on observing them drive, even if they don’t know it. Driving is a way of dealing with people – I choose associates based on how they do that. But regardless of your willingness to pass sentence as I do, driving is still an intriguing form of conversation, telling us no less about how a person regards work than how they regard the people in the other cars.