Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Driving Question



As with so many of us, it’s been two years since I’ve done a lot of things, and at the rate our world is learning the Greek alphabet, I wouldn’t bet against things getting worse before they get better.  Despite that foreboding, this week Barbara and I were blessed to share a couple of in-person face-to-face days at our farm with my brother and sister-in-law. 

We hadn’t seen them since our wedding in 2019, and though “seeing” may be a somewhat blurry euphemism–what with my being amid a cataract surgery regime–as always, we had a terrific time together.

They’d driven across Pennsylvania and New Jersey to attend an event in New York City and stopped by to visit us on their drive home.  My brother enjoys driving and they’re accustomed to 400-mile jaunts along America’s interstate highway system, making them potential witnesses to what I believe to be a pandemic-induced phenomenon on our nation’s highways. 

I’ve long viewed driving on Mykonos in high season to be the equivalent of Demolition Derby video games come to life; but over the past two years I’ve experienced somewhat similar surreal episodes taking root on New York and New Jersey highways and wanted their take on today’s highway drivers.


My thesis is:  there are more nuts on the road today than ever before.

I’m not talking about those operators of battery powered bikes now plaguing NYC streets (and sidewalks) with their cavalier disregard of one-way streets and traffic lights, nor the occasional muscle car driver intent on demonstrating drastically over-imagined NASCAR driving skills. I’m talking about mild-mannered, next-door-neighbor types at the steering wheels of traditional family cars.

For some time now, when driving back and forth to New York on Interstate Route 80, I’ve noticed a decided increase in unassuming cars weaving helter-skelter past vehicles in their way, or tightly tailgating until they can pass, often joined by other drivers in a seeming competition to achieve who knows what.


I think most would agree that civility is fraying on far too many fronts, as demonstrated by skyrocketing murder rates, and short tempers over otherwise mundane matters. For the many who manage to resist the urge to rage at the fates in front of family, friends, and colleagues, whatever calming influences those situations might offer fade away once they’re alone driving on a highway and left to focus on what’s next in store for them from a microbe that’s already affected their past in once unimaginable ways and threatens to wrest away their future.   

Is it any surprise how some, overcome with rage at their lost dominion over so much of their lives, seek to reclaim a modicum of that sense of power by firing down the highway in a wild effort to demonstrate to themselves that they still control their present?

 When I asked my brother and his wife if they agreed with my observation, they did, but with a caveat. 

When they drove into New York along Interstate 78, drivers behaved normally, but when they exited New York on I-80, drivers were as crazy as I described—“wild nuts filled with rage,” to be precise.

That left me pondering whether their observations supported my conclusion, or suggested another, e.g., (1) Folk entering NY behave normally, but those exiting are crazed, (2) Route I-80 folk are more tightly wound than I-78ers, (3) My brother and I are magnets for attracting crazies, (4) Their I-78 experience was a fluke, or (5) Something else. 

What’s your experience with drivers these days in your community? 



  1. I've just arrived in Cape Town, and drivers are crazy here: they drive straight at me, playing chicken to see who swerves away first; flashing their headlights; hooting and shaking their fists. It's a good thing they don't seem to have guns. It's as though I'd invaded their territory.

  2. Happy to hear you made it safely back home, Stan, but sorry to hear the (New) Jersey strain of drivers has made its way over there.

  3. I believe the sickness (road rage and lack of caring about those around you) appears to have spread from coast to coast...