Golden State road warriors

OK, I just got back from California, where I spent the week before Christmas doing all the Christmassy hustling that I swore I was never gonna do again (you know, until next December). I return with a question for all ’Fornians for whom it applies: What the hell is the damn hurry?

Every time I venture west, I return with the impression that Golden Staters are, generally speaking, in a real tizzy about something. Or everything. I’m not sure. All I know is that, as a guy who likes to go between 72 and 75 when the speed limit is 70, I’m amazed and slightly mortified at how often I end up getting shunted on over into the far right lane because I’m just not keeping up.

I’m not Zeke Kettle, you know, driving along in a beat up old ’56 Chevy pickup that looks like something you’d find parked on some gaffer’s front lawn in Gopherscat, Idaho. I have this hefty Ford diesel, in which I set the cruise control at 72, and then, invariably, I have to eventually toodle on over and take my proper place on the right as the never-ending swarms of Kias, Maximas and Mazdas all commence to pounding figurative sand up my vehicular ass while they scurry along at 87 miles an hour.

I keep having these Dopplerized experiences on California freeways, where I feel like an astronomer peering into space, watching objects speed away from him at velocities far greater than his own. I’d get in the right lane, set the cruise, and then watch as 100 percent of surrounding traffic slowly pulled away, ultimately reaching a vanishing point in the distance, their places in my vicinity assumed by a whole new set of fidgety, ultra caffeine-jittery/cranked-up pilots who were also along in the low to mid-80s. It became obvious—proceeding at 72 made me a mild menace of sorts and was strictly Seniorsville.

Honestly, though, I can’t make this a ’Fornia/Nevada thing. Not with a straight face. Something tells me that the freeway scene in Vegas is probably very similar, in terms of sand-pounding for those who refuse to jack it up beyond 80. But I can’t help but wonder about the petrol. I mean, if somehow the mainstream in this country, those masses of Ferd Berfels and Fannie Farkels who jam the roadways by the millions—if a good percentage of those folks could be convinced that slowing down to, say, 63 would be a positive thing and something worth doing for the health of the nation’s oil and gas supplies, well, one wonders how many billions of gallons of gas a year we would refrain from vaporizing.

I’m fully aware that the chances of any kind of mass cultural shift in that direction taking place are akin to Reno’s chances of landing a new submarine shipyard contract.