The Persistence of Idiocy

I just drove from Louisiana to my home in Illinois; it took about 14 hours, divided over two days. It’s not too bad of a drive but it’s all on the Interstate system– it saves a lot of time– and so it’s exhausting, but not just physically. I find long drives on the Interstate, especially that stretch on I 10 between Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, emotionally trying if not spiritually depleting.

Stupidity– sheer, crude idiocy– is so common on the highway that it eats away at my faith in the human race and in the future. I can’ t figure what it is they need to learn. Hour after hour I watch people pull up to within inches of each other and happily drive along at 75 or 80 miles an hour. If one would suddenly have to stop, as sometimes happens, several cars would crash.

Is it that they don’t understand inertia? It’s common to use tailgating as a kind of communication: if you want to go faster than the speed limit, or even faster than the traffic or weather would permit with any safety, you simply pull up to within a foot or so of the car ahead of you and stay there until they move. Imagine if someone did that, say, in a line at the movies.

People race you to the end of the entrance to the freeway. Or there’s the guys in the old top heavy SUV’s careering from lane to lane, almost on two wheels. Or the truck drivers who believe ‘might makes right’ and suddenly decide to change lanes right on top of you. You can’t slow down too fast, of course, because there’s another car two feet behind you.

It’s not just driving. The University of Illinois hired a new president at a salary that’s more than $150,000 than his predecessor, despite the state budget crisis. They only get “embarrassed” when it’s revealed that they are spending $100,000 on a sculpture to honor a former president. And, of course, while the Gulf goes down the tubes, Tony Hayward cheers on his yacht.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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