Strife In The Fast Lane: A Driving Strory

“MOOOOOVE!” screamed Will, his face hovering over the steering while trying to project his voice through both his windshield, the rear window of the car in front of him, and into the ears of its driver.  Will named the driver “Asshole.”

Will had followed this car for several miles.  They were in the fast lane on the interstate where the speed limit was 70 miles an hour.  Their pace, however, was closer to 60.  Part of Will’s frustration–a smaller part with every second he followed Asshole–was the poor decision that had resulted in following Asshole in the first place.  Will had moved into the fast lane to get around the Chevy that had been in front of him.  He’d noticed a car in the fast lane just ahead, but hadn’t been paying enough attention to gauge how fast that car was going.  As he began to pass the Chevy, he was gaining too much ground on the fast lane car–it was a Subaru–and had to slow.  The Chevy zipped away.

Will knew the quickest and smartest action was to get back in the slow lane, get around the Subaru, then deal with the Chevy.  But Will also knew the rules of the road.  Slower traffic should keep right.  It was basic driver’s ed.  He was pretty certain that was in the driver’s handbook.  For those who had forgotten this rule, there were “Slower Traffic Keep Right” roadsigns, for chrissakes!  And it was just goddamn courtesy!

Will also remembered another rule:  drivers weren’t supposed to pass on the right.  Will decided to observe that rule.

Trouble was, Asshole wasn’t getting over in the right lane.  The fast lane was becoming a bizarro-version of Thunderdome:  two men had entered, only one would leave.  The longer Will stayed behind Asshole, the more determined he was to stay.

Will accelerated slightly, inching closer until he was tailgating Asshole at 60 miles an hour.  It occurred to Will that the driver’s manual frowned on tailgating, but principle has to count for something, right?  He could live with his indiscretion.

What the hell is he thinking? Will thought.  He has to know I’m back here.  He’s got a goddamn rear-view mirror!

Will’s eyes darted between Asshole’s rear-view and driver’s side mirrors, trying to see whether Asshole glanced to either to see Will’s car following so close behind.

Suddenly, Will noticed a car behind him.  There was another car just behind him over in the right lane, but it was coming up even with Will.  Though Will hadn’t been paying attention to those cars, he figured the cars had both been in the right lane.  The guy who was now right behind Will probably did the same thing that landed Will behind Asshole.  The car had moved over into the fast lane to pass the other car.  Now the slow-lane car was passing Will on the right and moving right along to pass Asshole.

See what you’re doing! thought Will, his attention now back on Asshole.  You’re fucking it up for everyone!

The car behind Will whipped back over to the slow lane and began to pass.  As it went by, Will glanced over at the driver, briefly lifting his hands from the wheel as he shrugged and tilted his head toward Asshole in what he thought was an “I know–what an asshole this guy is” gesture.  The other driver looked at Will and shook his head, his face sour.

The look from the driver bothered Will, and his gaze followed the driver to see whether Nissan’s driver gave Asshole his disapproving look, too.  It was hard to tell.

Was that guy pissed at me?  Like this is my fault? Will felt incredulous.  How could anyone conclude that the slow pace in the fast lane was his doing?  He shook it off and re-directed his attention back to Asshole.

After another mile was down with no sign of possible movement by Asshole into the slow lane, Will decided he needed to do something proactive in addition to just tailgating.  He flashed his lights three times in succession, hoping Asshole might recognize the signal to move.  When there was still no change, Will slowed just a bit, just in case he was following so closely that Asshole wasn’t able to see Will’s lights in his mirror.  Another succession of flashes and … nothing.

“Jesus!  Get over!”  Will’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel, his shoulders tense, as he hunched so far over his steering wheel that his face was almost touching the windshield.  The slow lane was open again, but Will was way past the point of no return.  He would not be the first to blink.

Soon a few other cars were behind and to the side of Will.  Will had seen these coming.  As before, two cars were approaching in the slow lane, and the rear car moved over to pass only to be blocked when reaching Will’s car.  This time, the car still in the slow lane was just barely going faster than Will and Asshole.  The car even seemed to slow to the same speed as Asshole when he pulled even with Will.  As will continued to check the action behind him in the mirror, he saw yet another car join the group.  The two new cars both moved into the fast lane, undoubtably assuming the fast-lane cars were actually moving faster.

Poor bastards, Will thought.

Will checked the rear-view mirror again and saw that he was being tailgated.  The car was right on his bumper, and Will started feeling increasingly uncomfortable.  He felt like his car was wedged into a parking spot on the street that was just big enough to fit his car, but in this case all the cars were doing 60 on the interstate.  Will slowed just a little, putting a little distance between himself and Asshole.  Then the lights off the car behind him flashed.

“Fuck you!”  Will  yelled to his rear-view mirror.  “I’m not the problem here!”  Will quickly turned to the right, wondering if the driver of that car had seen him talking–or, rather, shouting–when he was alone in the car.  The slow-lane car was almost completely past him.  Will briefly considered getting over.  Let this prick behind me see that Asshole here is the one holding things up. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Then the driver behind Will whipped into the slow lane, and the car behind that driver followed suit.  As Will’s tailgater passed, he looked over at Will and shook his head.  Will had no doubt that this look was intended for him.  Whatever this guy may think about Asshole, he thought the same of Will.  Thankfully, the next car that went by didn’t seem to pay Will any mind.

Then it was just Will and Asshole in the fast lane, linked together by Asshole’s horribly driving and Will’s stubbornness.  The disapproving driver left an impact.  Though Will still felt he was superior in every way to Asshole, he now had the realization that to others he might not only be no better, but no different.  Disheartened, Will eased off the gas pedal and reached for the turn signal.  His commitment broken, he resigned himself to leaving the fast lane.

Will hit the signal and had barely begun veering right when, without warning or signal, Asshole’s car moved to the right and kept moving until he settled into the slow lane.  Will was shocked.  He tensed again, stifling the urge to scream.  He quickly hit the turn signal to the “off” position and began accelerating past Asshole.  As he drew even with him, he knew he wanted to let Asshole know just how pissed off he was, possibly by a shaking fist or maybe just the good old middle finger.  He looked to his right, finally getting a better look at the guy who’d been tormenting him.

The man he saw was maybe in his 30’s.  Will thought he could make out a mousey mustache, the kind that will never fill in completely.  Thick glasses covered his eyes.  The man had both hands on the wheel, one at ten and one at two, and was intently staring forward.  Will knew that this guy would never look over at him, and not because he was trying to avoid him, but because he was just a nervous man scared shitless about driving on the interstate.

Will went past.  He felt like an asshole.