Writer | Journalist | Storyteller

The Civility Of Single File


I want to talk to you today about civility. That thing that separates us from the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. The ability to live in a society free from mayhem simply because we choose to think about how our actions affect other people. In short, I want to talk to you about traveling single file.

I realize this might be something of a mystery to some of you, so let me explain.

For centuries, animals and humans have traveled through the world single file. Often it was to hide their numbers, or to keep a lower profile from predators or enemies. In our modern world, traveling single file means thinking about those around you. To put the good of the whole, ahead of the desires of the one.

Now some of you are saying, “I still don’t understand.” So let me further explain for those of you who don’t understand the concept of traveling single file.

You’re the people who walk side by side on the airport people mover keeping me from getting home to my family and loved ones as you blithely stand motionless while discussing the breakfast burrito you had in Tuscon.

You’re the family walking slowly down the board, six abreast, shuffling aimlessly while completely oblivious to the backup of people behind you.

You’re the cars traveling down the highway, side by side, neither speeding up nor slowing down, passing or being passed, because you feel this is a perfectly adequate speed for everyone.

You’re the person driving alone in the left hand lane for no reason.

You’re the bicyclists riding down the road side by side, forcing automobiles, who I should point out are considerably heavier than you and made of steel, to move into oncoming traffic to avoid clipping you into a ditch.

So let me break this down for you.

When you travel in a single file, you open up the possibility that there might be someone who wants to go faster than you. In America, we operate on the precept that slower traffic stays to the right, and those who want to pass, do so on the left. In New Jersey, it’s no even so much an unwritten rule as a fucking state law.

You want an example? I’ll give you an example.

Yesterday, I was traveling home from work. This being a Friday in August, there was very heavy traffic coming down Route 55 as hoards of assholes made their way to the shore for the weekend. This is a four lane, limited access highway, which is generally free from turbulence, so I was annoyed when all of a sudden, we all seemed to be stuck behind an unmovable object traveling at a speed of 63-67mph.

“But Dave,” you say, “the speed limit on that particular road is 65mph. Isn’t that perfectly within the bounds of reason?”

And to you, kind sir, I say, “Go fuck yourself.”

According to New Jersey Article 39:4-88, “A vehicle shall normally be driven in the lane nearest the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway when that lane is available for travel, except when overtaking another vehicle or in preparation for a left turn.“

But that’s not all. It goes even further.

“A vehicle shall normally be driven in the lane nearest the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway when that lane is available for travel, except when overtaking another vehicle or in preparation for a left turn.“

So what this means, ladies and gents, is that unless you are passing another vehicle, you are to travel in the lane nearest the right-hand edge. Or to put it more bluntly, “Get the fuck over!”

Now back to my truck.

So the driver in the right hand lane, while obviously being of poor mind and spirit, due to the fact that he was traveling alongside a 10,000 pound truck for over 10 miles, and was doing so largely in that driver’s blind spot, was actually doing nothing wrong.

Said moron was traveling the maximum speed limit, or close enough to it, and was in the proper lane. The truck on the other hand, was clearly driven by a drunk, a douchebag, or some other spawn of Satan intent on the destruction of civilization as we know it.

Let’s go back to the article 39:4-88, section E and see what it says about the matter.

“When such roadway had been divided in such a manner that there are 2 or more lanes for traffic in any one direction, no truck of 10,000 pounds registered gross weight or over shall be driven in the farthest left-hand lane, except when and to the extent necessary to prepare for a left turn, or when necessary to enter or leave such roadway by entrance or exit to or from the left lane or when reasonably necessary in response to emergency conditions.“

What does that mean? Same thing, “Get the fuck over!”

So now we have two idiots, driving down the road, side by side, with a world of traffic behind them, the pressure building mile by mile, oblivious to the world around them. That is not freedom to do what you want. That’s oppression of others. That’s passive aggressive violence towards your fellow man.

Now, I drive a bright orange, Mini Cooper S, four-door hardtop. It’s looks very much like a Minion, the yellow animated characters from the movies. It’s not what you’d call a muscle car. But it’s built by BMW and is surprisingly fast and agile. I’d put it up against your car most days.

When Right-Lane Moron finally got going fast enough to get out in front of Left-Lane Moron, probably due to a slight decline he wasn’t paying attention to, I saw my chance. I deftly squeezed between the vehicles and shot out in front.

Now a selfish person would have just floored it and left that particular problem for someone else to deal with. But I am a man of the people. I could not leave this injustice unresolved. So I began to slow down.

Even if you are in the right, you don’t play chicken with a semi-tractor trailer. Frankly, I don’t care if you’re driving a Hummer, you’re still going to lose. But when you’re driving a Minion, you have to be even more careful.

So I began to slow down. I didn’t hit my brakes, I just took my foot off the accelerator and let the car roll. 75mph. 70mph. 65mph. The truck continued to slow behind me. 60mph. 55mph. 50mpg.

At this point the other cars behind me have seen their opening and begin streaming past. I’d broken the logjam. But we weren’t quite through yet. 45mph. 40mpg. 35mph. Now at this point, I would usually expect the person to move to the other lane to pass me, or at least get the point, but this driver was intent on staying in the left lane. Traffic was moving freely at this point, so I hit the gas and was doing 80mph in about 7 seconds, leaving him far behind.

Trucks take a little while longer to get back up to speed, so he had 12 gears or so to get through, while everyone else passed him on the right, which is completely wrong, but legal when someone is impeding the normal traffic flow.

One more thing on the law. It is now lawful for a police officer to pull you over and issue you a summons for driving in the left hand lane at a slower speed than other traffic. It’s ILLEGAL to just drive in the left hand lane.  It doesn’t even matter if you’re doing the speed limit. That’s not an excuse under the law.

So let this be a lesson. Don’t be a douchebag. Or you’ll get fucked with by a fat, bearded guy in a bright orange Mini. That can’t feel good.

Let’s be civil to one another. Don’t just think about what makes you happy. Think about how your decisions can affect other people. If they have no effect on other people, knock yourself out. I don’t care if you like to wear poodle skirts and dance in the moonlight. I say Carpe Diem. Seize the day.

But when your ignorance, arrogance or simple oblivion affect my quality of life, then I have a problem with you and you should be dealt with harshly.

Be kind. Think of others. It doesn’t have to be much. It’s the little things.

Above all, just move over. Please.

Thank you.

About the author

David Todd McCarty

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer. He writes fiction and nonfiction essays as well as journalism. You can see his commercial work at http://www.hoppingfrogstudios.com

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Writer | Journalist | Storyteller


Recent Posts