Recently it was proposed that highway speed limits be reduced, not just on two-lane rural ones, but all highways. Supposedly, this will save drivers money.
At first, I was a bit flustered that my commute to work would take longer. Who's got the time to drive slower? But then the practical side of me thought about the savings. Could this be true? Any savings on gas at this point is kind of appealing.
So, the next day, I set the cruise at 60 mph and puttered down K-10. There is a noticeable difference in how fast it feels one is going between 70-plus mph and 60 mph. Also noticeable were the cars rapidly coming up behind me, and then passing me. Wait! I'm usually the one doing the passing!
But, I was determined to save some change on gas. So, I relaxed my grip on the steering wheel and sat back in my seat. Then it dawned on me. I actually can see the pretty flowers along the roadside that usually are a blur. And I told myself that I was owning my spot on the road and making the other drivers go around me. Silly, hurried people. They are missing the flowers.
Why are we in such a hurry? We start our day with a rushed cup of coffee. Speed down streets and highways just to creep along in rush-hour traffic. Or, as in some cities, zip along in the express lane. We honk and gesture at those getting in our way (driver's Tourette's, I call it).
At work, we find ways to "save time," take short-cuts just to get the job done faster. No time to rest on our laurels, we have to work harder and move up the ladder faster than the next guy. At lunch, we shovel in our pre-made sandwiches or cafeteria prepared meal - no time to fix a lunch at home, after all. After work, rush hour traffic, more honking and dirty looks.
If we must stop at the grocery store, we can use the self-check lane - it's faster and no one to have to exchange pleasantries with. Then home and, finally, time for leisure. Maybe catch Headline News and get the day's worth of news in 30 minutes. Or the student opens the Cliff's notes to the novel that was assigned three weeks ago. Or log on to the high-speed Internet and sign up for an online dating service. Who has time to meet someone and get to know them?
No time to watch a favorite show? TiVo or DVR it. Too shy to socialize? Log into a chat room. No time to fix a hot, healthy meal? There's fast food, take-out or delivery. Why write a letter and send it by "snail" mail when one can just e-mail that person or, even faster, instant message them. Talking to family and friends is too slow and tedious? Just buy a video game and create a virtual family, even virtual pets.
Telephone operators are obsolete. We now have automated call systems, speed dial and voice-activated commands. ATMs eliminate the need to worry about "banker's hours" or the need to tell someone how much we would like to withdraw. Online shopping eliminates going to stores and dealing with those pesky sales clerks (if you can find one).
Our need for speed has changed our use of language (texting shorthand), has created new terms (instant coffee, speed dating, road rage, power nap), has evolved new medical conditions (stress-related disorders like obesity, high blood pressure, emotional burnout), has affected our relationships (Internet dating, cell phone texting, virtual friends).
By accepting the hurry-up way of life, are we are losing touch with reality, with human interaction, with manners? If someone pulls in front of us, is it OK to honk, flip the bird or cuss? Instead of "please" and "thank you," do we allow crass words and harsh tones? Why do we get defensive and demanding instead of forgiving and compromising? Are good manners and random acts of kindness losing out?
Lowering the speed limit might not save a lot of money, but it might make some of us slow down and enjoy life - and each other.