My daily commute consists of a 30 minute drive along a winding two lane road from my village through three towns and into a larger town where I pick up the turnpike to Portland. On a perfect morning where no one else is on the road, this drive takes me about 20 minutes but, more often than not, I wind up in a line of cars that meander through the Maine countryside at or below the speed limit. One of the greatest lessons I've learned in my morning commute is that it is absolutely futile to pass. Sure, in the beginning, I would get so fired up that I would curse and spit and make wild gestures at an apparently inept driver and then peel around them as soon as the opportunity opened up before me. I'd scowl emphatically at the typically oblivious driver as I passed and would just begin to settle down when I'd approach another slow driver and be stuck for the remainder of my trip with the car I'd just so furiously passed behind me, trapped by the cruel conspiracy between heavy oncoming traffic and that spiteful double yellow line.
These days, I just sit back, turn the stereo up, get the lead out when the road is clear, and blissfully resign myself to an average of 30 minutes from point A to point B. I estimate that, since moving to Maine, I've spent about 1000 hours driving and in that time, I've had the chance to observe a lot of different driving styles but the style that is most pronounced on the rural leg of the commute are the People Who Drive 45.
The journey consists largely of long stretches of road with a speed limit of 55mph/88kph broken up by shorter sections inside the towns of speed limits ranging from 25mph/40kph to 45/72. The average driver goes 5 above the speed limit, 10 if they're feeling lucky or they're on a straight-away. I'm a 5-Over Driver myself, almost without fail regardless of the setting: interstate, country road, city street, driveway. Occasionally, I see the Hell Spawn, which is someone who is either drunk, high, angry or just doesn't give a fuck about anyone else on the road. They blow past everyone, even the moderate speeders, and are never to be seen again (unless they're like this one guy who passed me on a snowy interstate and wound up in a ditch a mile later). Every now and again are the Grandmas, people of different ages who drive 5 below the speed limit and are overly cautious at every turn.
More often than not, however, I see the People Who Drive 45; this difficult to define group of people who, for reasons that are a complete mystery to me, drive a consistent 45mph regardless of the posted speed limit. These drivers, when on the interstate, go a wild variety of speeds but usually follow the 65 rule. On a winding two lane road where the posted speed limit changes every few miles, they just stick the needle on 45 and ride in complete oblivion? disregard? willful foolishness? for the 18 miles home.
These drivers make me utterly insane and I can't tell you why. Perhaps it's because they aren't easy to typify. They're comprised of young, old, male, female, nice cars, junk heaps, cat owners, dog owners, people with children, people without, liberals, conservatives. They occur in daylight, darkness, morning, evening, even in the dead of night, weekdays, weekends. There's simply no rhyme or reason to them and I'm beginning to feel like it might possibly be at the center of the question of what it means to be human, that's how much it troubles me. Obviously, it must be an important philosophical question for all of mankind if it's bothered me this much because anything else would suggest that I'm slightly obsessive.
Of course, because I have learned the Zen-of-not-passing I stay behind them for the half hour from the turnpike to my home, trying to get a glimpse at them in the hopes that this one new 45er will hold the key to the mystery of them all. Inevitably, I wind up frustrated, up way past my bedtime, writing a snarky blog post about them. If only they could see how furiously I type these hurtful words about them, that would show them for being so horribly consistent that they don't even vary their speed for the LAW! TAKE THAT PEOPLE THAT DRIVE 45!