Driving: The Great Equalizer

Thoughts from a traffic jam...

6w ago

Today on my way home, I was stuck in traffic. Not bad stop-and-go traffic, more like the kind where you speed up to 45-50, then slow back down to 25, then repeat. It never pays to try to lane-hop in those situations, because you always choose the wrong one, or can't get over when you need to, so I usually just choose a lane and stick to it. And it seems a lot of other people do, too.

For quite a long time, I was keeping pace with a black Tesla Model 3. He was one lane over, and when my lane sped up, his wold slow down, and vice versa, so we passed by each other a dozen times over the course of six of seven miles. Every time his lane would speed up, he'd punch it and run right up behind the cars in front of him, so someitmes it would be a minute or so before I saw him again. Eventually, he got away, because I got stuck behind a truck. But then, when I got off my exit, there he was, waiting at the stop light.

And it occurred to me: we went the exact same average speed, because here we are both stopped at the same place.

That's kind of remarkable, if you think about it. Here's someone in a brand-new car, with all the horsepower you could possibly want, chock-full of the latest and greatest techno-wizardry, and some working-class stiff in a beat-up old Toyota ends up going exactly the same speed. My car cost about as much as a payment or two on his, but here we are, on the same road, with the same rights to use that road, averaging the same speed over a distance of several miles.

So what, then, exactly, did he get for spending fifty times as much as I did? Power? Well, that doesn't matter, because he wasn't able to get away from me. Comfort? Maybe a little, but my little Toyota isn't really uncomfortable; it has decent seats and good HVAC and a reasonably OK stereo. Safety? Yeah, maybe, but while his car might do more to protect him, mine forces me to pay closer attention and protect myself. Prestige? Whatever. I'm not trying to impress anyone.

I just find it fascinating, and wonderful, that all it takes is a license and a registered vehicle to gain access to any public road there is. You can spend less than $1000 on an old beater like I did, or $50,000 on a new Tesla like he did, or millions on a vintage Ferrari, and it just doesn't matter, because they can all drive on the same roads.

And that's democracy in action. And it's just another thing I love about cars.

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Comments (3)

  • Yes, its just like Coca-Cola, everyone who drinks one from a billionaire on down is drinking the same Coke, you can't buy a better version no matter how much money you have or a worse version no matter how little. Yes, there's the superior Mexican version, but they sell that everywhere now and its hardly more expensive.

      1 month ago
  • A solid point. It reminds me of a motortrend editorial I read about how driving fast doesn’t actually get you there much if at all faster. I think maybe on a freeway on a long journey it might be a few minutes but especially in city driving with lights it doesn’t really pay off. I drive a $5000 Camry and it does everything just fine. I think about getting something nicer when I graduate and get a better job and once I have it paid off. But right now it’s cheap to pay for and run and if that holds i think it’ll be hard for me to actually upgrade. I can easily see just running for a long time. It’s a 2011 Camry with 159,000 miles so it still has life in it.

      1 month ago
  • Well put.

      1 month ago