No, it’s not about an elected official. As per Random House, definition #5:

  • Machinery. a device for maintaining uniform speed regardless of changes of load, as by regulating the supply of fuel or working fluid.

I’ll add something to that definition. Not only a device, but an individual. Somehow I am drawn to them, or they to me, like an unwanted magnet on the highway.

Evidently, there are drivers out there – in the left hand lane, of course – who feel it is their duty to maintain the flow of traffic at a speed limit determined by them. The problem, of course, is that they are the only ones who feel they are qualified for this position. A quick check in their rear-view mirror (something we will discuss later) would prove that there are other fellow drivers who disagree with their self-appointed position.

But that doesn’t stop them. No. They are zealous, almost with a religious fervor, about preventing anyone else from exceeding the speed limit – or, at the very least, approaching the speed limit.

Let’s say the speed limit is 65. The traffic in the right hand lane (headed up by an Edsel, for our example) is going 64, but because many drivers don’t use their cruise control (proven to save fuel, by the way), their actual speed fluctuates – sometimes as much a 5 miles per hour above or below the posted speed limit. We won’t even discuss those drivers who religiously drive 5-10 miles per hour BELOW the speed limit (yes, I will address that at some point soon).

And often, this fluctuation is dependent on the presence – or lack thereof – of a vehicle next to them (again, that’s a whole ‘nother diatribe).

Well, with the right lane pleasantly cruising along at 64, some radical, Volvo-driving (what IS it about Volvo drivers?), Mario Andretti-wannabe lurches over into the left lane, as if to say “You’re keeping me from making my appointed rounds by driving like a slug with salt on its back.” The Volvo’s dramatic jolt into the left lane – most of us call this the PASSING LANE – has worlds of promise.

You see it happening. You expect a dramatic increase in speed, allowing the Volvo to quickly maneuver beside of, and then in front of, the Edsel. All safely, of course, as we were taught in driving school.

But no.

The Volvo and Edsel become lane-mates for the next 20 miles. There’s no one in front of the Volvo – at least not in this county – and there’s no one in front of the Edsel. The CONSCIENTIOUS Volvo driver would normally speed up ever-so-slightly, enough to quickly – but not dangerously, mind you – pass the Edsel, and then gently glide back over to the right lane, re-establishing himself as leader of the 64MPH pack.

Having trounced the Edsel, though still giving him two full car lengths’ space, and employing his right turn signal so as not to jar the Edsel driver’s delicate senses with any sudden moves, the Volvo driver SHOULD now be out of the path of those crazed 66MPH left-laners wreaking so much death and destruction on the interstate.

Instead, the Volvo is now Governor of the Left Lane – a position he takes very seriously. The duty of preventing any fellow motorists from exceeding the speed limit rests squarely on his Swedish-built shoulders. Unlike another breed of left-laners, he DOES check his rear view mirror. He KNOWS there is a line of vehicles stretching back to the horizon. Some of the closer left laners are even gesticulating to the Volvo in a manner that can only be described as somewhat-less-than-Krishna-like.

Yet our Volvo driver takes all of this in stride, pacing his right lane buddy the Edsel, who is now gently speeding up as if to tell the Volvo – in a Robert Conrad accent – “Go ahead, try and knock it off. I dare you.” Or maybe the Edsel driver simply likes the look of his left lane partner, and is thinking to himself that it might be time to upgrade.

In any event, our Volvo remains our left lane leader for what seems like hours, when in fact it’s only hours. He only moves to the right lane if he sees his exit is coming up – whether he is low on fuel, or spotted the billboard for the World’s Biggest Cast Iron Skillet. It’s only then that his non-Krishna rear view constituents are able to adequately express their disapproval rating to their former Governor – usually in rapid succession, enabled only by his eminence’s imminent departure from the main dragway.

There appears to be no solution to these self-elected officials. They will continue to save us all from our certain destruction – our path to Interstate Hell – whether we want them to or not.


c'est moi