Nitwitness (1 of 5)

“Of course it makes a difference. Every little bit adds up.” Keith spoke even as he changed lanes again without signaling.

“Yeah sure,” Marnie uttered with sarcasm. “Like five minutes in a two hour trip. Really. There was a study done on a drive from San Diego to Los Angeles. Two identical cars going at the prevailing speed, but one driver had to stay as much as possible in the same lane and the other was supposed to be aggressive to try to make time. The lane changer arrived in Los Angeles four minutes and thirty-six seconds before the calm driver.”

I watched it all from the back seat, and I wondered.

“Well I don’t know who did the study, but I would have made a lot more than five minutes on that trip. Anyway,” he said with a tone a bit exasperated and a look in his rearview mirror, “there’s no way I’m happily sitting in this stew.” He swivelled his head to the right and darted one lane over.

“It makes me nervous is the problem. I’m always tense when you drive like this. Maybe you should take passenger comfort into account.”

“Maybe we should commute separately.”


Then Marnie looked out her side window for awhile, and Keith paid attention to the traffic. But they both knew commuting together was practical. Keith had free parking at his office building, and they could drive faster and toll-less in the diamond lane. It would have been more expensive and perhaps a bit silly to commute separately.

Driving in the 21st century is a high-stress exercise in every metropolitan area. Across America people strap into bucket seats in high-powered vehicles and launch themselves into an environment which of course stimulates their glands to flood their confined bodies with adrenaline, to spur their heart rates and respiration and passions, to fill them with a lust to burst the bounds of those seat belts and diagonal straps and whomp the asshole who just cut them off.

Keith and Marnie are practical; they commute together. They are also 50 years old and feeling it in their individual ways. He gets heartburn easily. He tends to carry antacids. He also suffers from occasional hemorrhoid pain and seasonal allergies, each condition worsening with age. Marnie has some bone problems. She exercises a lot, and she feels some heel and knee pain daily. A few times a year her neck seizes up or her lower back springs out of whack.

But they’re not unattractive. She’s a little overweight but fit from all of her exercise. She takes care of her hair and she smiles a lot. Keith should shave his head; he never had good hair and it’s thinning unevenly. He would look better without the middle-aged paunch. But he has nice features and good shoulders and attractive teeth and hands. He could look worse.

(more on Wednesday)

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