August 2, 2023

There’s sure to be a ‘blue light special’ one day

Have you noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and everyone driving faster than you is a maniac?”

­−George Carlin

     You are either part of the solution or part of the problem. If you’re talking about traffic, I’d be part of the problem.

     I’m one of the “idiots” that comic George Carlin complains about. The highway’s the only place I don’t hurry. “Maniacs” zoom past me.

     When someone raced around my grandmother, she’d curl her lip and snarl, “Hurry on, you old heifer, hell ain’t half full.”

     Getting left in a cloud of dust doesn’t bother me. I plod along at 59 miles an hour and get to the traffic light about the same time as the speedsters.

     Georgia’s speed limits have become mere suggestions.

     Two-lane roads are usually geared for 55 mph. Most drivers will argue, “But the police will give you another 10 miles an hour.” So, many motorists mentally reset the speed limit to 65.

     Idiotically, I clog the roads at 59.

     On some four-lane roads, the limit rises to 65. And many interstates are set at 70. Try driving 70. It’s impossible. Your neck hairs will get singed from the heat of a tailgater’s motor.

     The worst is on interstate highways. Some of America’s finest steer those big rigs. But some of those men and women give truckers a bad name by being bullies on 18 wheels.

     That’s when I wish my grandmother was riding in the right slow lane with me. I’d buy her a bullhorn to holler at the truckers who honk at me in disgust.

     Sometimes on regular highways, I glance in the rearview mirror and see a line of cars waiting to pass. I’m driving four miles over the limit, but that’s not fast enough.

     If there’s a good place to pull over, I veer off and let them roar by. A few shake their fists. Usually, I’m glad I don’t have binoculars to read their lips.

     You’d think I’d get the message and change my “idiotic” habits. Don’t waste your breath. I’m stuck right where I want to be.

     Kenny Bryant knows this. For years, he’s said I was in training to be our generation’s Olin Harper, whose car rarely left second gear. Olin was a delightful, retired businessman who tooled around town in slow motion.

     Olin took his time in his Oldsmobile.

     I intend to do the same.

In my peak driving years—every 24 months—I’d clip the 100,000-mile mark. People ask, “Where do you live?” “On the highway,” I say. And that’s the truth as I make laps around Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.

     I try to be a careful driver. Dizzy Dean quipped, “It ain’t braggin’ if you done it.” Well, Dizzy, I ain’t braggin’, but I’ve never gotten a “blue light special” in 58 years.

     That’s soon to change.

     No, no, Kenny, I’m not speeding up.

     But before long, I’ll be the only one the police will be able to catch.

(A version of this column was first published on Sept. 12, 2004.)