Whatever you thought of George Carlin — funny, smart, crass, time-traveler, etc. — you can’t deny he was brilliant at pointing out the obvious in ways that mere mortals could never do. He made a career out of putting a mirror in front of us and holding it at such unexpected angles, we couldn’t help but learn all sorts of things about ourselves.
Of the hundreds of quotes attributed to him (ignoring the equal number of quotes misattributed to him), here’s one of my favorites:
Have you ever noticed when you’re driving that anyone who’s driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?
To me, this one is beyond brilliant. Because in a single, one-line joke George Carlin explains humanity. There should be graduate level psychology classes built around this one joke. (Maybe there are and I just haven’t taken them yet.) Nearly everything we do as a species, good and bad, great and small, wonderful and evil, grows from the root of this observation. In a word: egocentrism.
We tend to think of self-centric people as inconsiderate, uncaring, or that person photobombing everyone at the party. But the reality is, we’re all self-centric, and that’s kinda by design. It’s what keeps us alive and moving forward. Self-preservation is key to the overall preservation of the species.
But I digress.
The reason slower cars are driven by idiots and faster cars are driven by maniacs is because egocentrism is all about: “I am right and everyone else is wrong.” It’s amazing how powerful that feeling can be. It’s even more amazing how a person can not see it in themselves but very easily point it out in others.
But there I go digressing again.
The real point of this post is simply: I’m an idiot. Specifically, the very idiot George Carlin is talking about up there. You see, this isn’t a post about philosophy or psychology or egotism. It’s about me, the idiot.
You see, I’m the car that all those maniacs are passing. Why? Because I drive the speed limit. Like, all the time. If it’s a side street with a 25 MPH posting, I’m driving twenty-five. If it’s a 50 MPH two lane highway, yep: that’s me going fifty. If it’s a 75 MPH interstate, then I’m right there.
Why do I do it? It’s the law, that’s why. Besides I don’t feel that going five or ten over is going to make me a happier person. Might get me there two minutes sooner. Also might make me twenty minutes late and two hundred dollars poorer. But that is, quite literally, how I roll.
Oh sure, every once in a while I get stuck behind some idiot going five or ten under the limit. What THAT guy is doing on the road, I have no idea. Idiot. But most of the time, I’m getting passed by maniacs non-stop.
On one drive home, I was going fifty (the limit) through a construction zone at night. I counted at least two dozen maniacs passing me at a pretty good clip. I passed no one. And those maniacs are everywhere.
If I’m going twenty-five, they’re going thirty-five. If I’m going seventy-five, they’re going eighty-five. I swear to pizza, if the speed limit were eight thousand miles per hour, people would be whizzing past me at eight thousand and ten. Clearly, speeding has nothing to do with the actual rate of travel.
So fess up everyone. Are you an idiot or a maniac? Hint: the answer is neither. You and you alone are going the exact perfect speed. But you knew that.