Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm getting passed!

I am almost done reading a great book called Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt. It is fun reading because all of the aggravations and behaviors that people exhibit while driving heavy machinery is discussed. Is it better to take the first available parking spot, or wait for the one right in front of the door? Where do those phantom traffic jams come from? Why is it weird catching someone's eye in the car next to you?

I'll pull out some of the observations that are interesting to me, and we'll have a great time learning why we both think we're above average drivers. Here is one that seems relevant to most of my life at the moment (42):

Drivers spend most of their time - anywhere from 80 percent to over 90 percent, studies have found - looking at the forward roadway. This includes, of course, the adjacent lane; estimates are that for every two glances we make at our own lane, we make one glance at the next lane - simply so we can actually stay in our lane. This means we are highly aware of vehicles passing us. We spend only about 6 percent of our driving time looking in the rearview mirror. In other words, we're much more aware of what is passing us than what we have passed.
You know you've thought the same thing as you sit in a lane of traffic, apparently the slow one. So you change lanes, and of course this always happens to you - now you are getting passed again! Well, you really are feeling more pain by cars passing you than the joy of passing others (admit it, there is a little ego boost as you wave "So long Sucker!" to the cars you are passing).

Frankly, I don't think this is just a car phenomenon. It is easy to feel like people are passing me by in life as well.

"Oh look, another person got that job in front of me." "There is someone else who has hit it big." "I wonder who is building that gargantuan house in our neighborhood?" "Why does it seem like everyone has a bigger dog than us?" (Ok, everyone does have a larger dog than us, but I'm actually pretty happy about that.)

There is something to counting your blessings. I've got it pretty good. Comparing myself to others is a losing proposition, no matter where I end up. What is the best that I can do, in my circumstances? And stop counting those passing cars, turn up the radio and sing (some of you should probably roll up the windows).

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