Last weekend I was camping out on the Olympic peninsula with some friends. For those not familiar with the Olympic Peninsula, it is a relatively remote section of Washington State, accessible to Seattle by ferry or by driving around the tip of Puget Sound. On sunny weekends like the one we just experienced, the Peninsula gets flooded by city dwelling nerds like me, who will spend ten hours driving just to experience a few scant hours on the beach. All of the roads are rural, two lane jobs, and when one schmoe decides to drive really slow, a line of cars form behind him, sometimes miles long. The only option, if you’re stuck behind such a schmoe, is to pass him in the opposing lane, when traffic clears. Most of the drivers here are not very aggressive and will prefer to stay behind schmoe for hours rather than risk passing (even in long stretches where there’s no opposing traffic for miles on end.)
I, on the other hand, did not learn to drive in Washington. I’ve lived and driven in Chicago and Detroit, where even the most passive driver is a raging pit bull compared to Washington drivers. I currently have a Buick Park Avenue with a belt driven supercharger, and it goes really, really fast when I want it to. Consequently, when I get stuck behind schmoe, I pass schmoe.
And I don’t just pass schmoe. I like to use my cruise control, and when I get stuck behind someone who is constantly changing their speed, making my cruise control effectively useless, I pass 'em. They might have been going generally fast enough for me, but what the heck? It’s legal for me to pass them, and it saves me some small irritation, so I do. I also pass big trucks and SUVs which block my view of the road ahead. I pass a lot. Why not? I certainly have the power under the hood for it.
Now, before I get to the bit at hand, some quick points:
- Despite what you are thinking, I’m not much of a speeder. As a rule, I do not go faster than 5mph over the speed limit. Usually I don’t speed at all. If I sound like a big dangerous speeder, it’s because drivers on the Olympic peninsula seem to go 5 mph *under * the posted speeds. Okay for them, but not me.
- I pass very carefully. I was once run off the road by some jerk who thought he had space to pass when he didn’t. I don’t want to be that guy, so I’ll stay behind schmoe for hours, if necessary, until I see a space big enough to pass safely. I don’t want to be anywhere near an opposing car. I only pass where it’s legal and the lane markings reflect this. I merge back into the lane with lots of space between me and the car I’m passing. I don’t cut people off.
- I believe I am fair minded about being on the recieving end of the same behavior. I will pull off the road to let someone who’s in a bigger hurry get past, and give them a friendly wave. When pulling out isn’t an option, as soon as they pull into the opposing lane to pass me, I slow down, so they can get back in ASAP. Treat others the way you want to be treated, I say.
Now here’s what gets me: The driver of almost every car I passed this weekend flipped me off. At least half the drivers stomped on the gas and sped up when they saw I was passing them. People honked, got angry, red in the face, and looked like they were cursing me out. I got this over and over again.
WTF? Is there something I’m missing here? Passing them isn’t illegal, and it isn’t meant as an insult to their manhood (or womanhood.) It just means “I want to go faster than you.” I suspect that part of it is that my car looks like a grandpa car, so people are affronted by the idea that one of these cars will go faster than them. But that’s just speculation - I have no idea why passing inspires such a forceful response.
So I went ahead and posted this question in the pit. If you’re on of the poeple I passed this weekend, or someone of the same mindset, let me have it! Tell me what a jerk I am! I really want to know what’s on you mind, why I piss you off so much. Here’s your opportunity to convince me not to pass you again.
And if you’re one of the slow driving schmoes who causes a multi mile long backup of cars behind you, why don’t you ever use one of the pull outs to give the folks behind a chance to get ahead? That’s what they’re there for! Do you just not realize how many people you’re inconveniencing or what? (Are you aware that delaying 5 or more cars is illegal?)