I commute a minimum of two hours per day (one hour each way). I also work in a place where commuting is an anomaly and driving is treated as an activity lower than tongue-scrubbing the Devil’s anus. Which means, I also am forced to talk about driving an exceptional, loathsome amount. What directions I go, “isn’t that hard,” how do I endure it, aren’t these the worst drivers? The answers are: who cares, no, a paycheck is a strong motivator, and definitely not Orange County California has collectively the worst drivers in the US. There’s a tedium and rhythm to these conversations which I try to steer in a more interesting direction.
It usually starts with one of those questions which I will curtly but politely entertain and follow-up with a question of my own which is designed to let a person shine with their own driving anecdote. “Oh, you know, the traffic can be bad sometimes, but that’s when you catch people in their car doing weird stuff. I saw a guy shaving with a straight razor once (true story).” This ends up opening up to the other person to share their weird-traffic-sighting story.
These stories always end with the same refrain, “some people think they’re invisible in their car.” And we all shake our heads in collective agreement that “people be crazy,” for daring to think of their car as a refuge, a place to be fully comfortable.
But you know what, the vast majority of us ARE invisible in our cars. Not in the sense that no one can see us, but we all blend together. There’s only about 5 different car styles out there. Unless you’re driving something with a really distinctive paint job or have way too many bumper stickers, you’ll never remember me, the person in the grey sedan who locked eyes with you while I picked my nose so hard I got to the third knuckle.
People are constantly telling me how many people they see pick their nose “as if no one can see them.” But the booger-miners are right. Not only are they not enduring another moment of an inner-nostril irritant on the off chance a momentary flood of embarrassment might occur should the person two lanes over who finally looked up from his phone, but that person is not going to remember a single detail about the nose picker.
Think about the last time you saw someone pick their nose in an adjacent car. Do you remember anything identifiable about the offender? What color was the car? You have a 25% chance to get that right, it’s most likely, grey, white, black or red. Cars are so generic, I couldn’t tell you what kind of car any of my neighbors drive. If you saw a person buy can’t remember a single feature about them, doesn’t that make the person functionally invisible?
Also, who cares? Did you lose any respect for this person that you had a half-second before? We have all picked our nose before. And for some reason, people feel perfectly comfortable picking their ears in the middle of a conversation with me, so what makes the nose so different?
Before you think you’re totally exonerated, public pickers, no one is fooled that you were “just itching” when you use two fingers, one inside your nose.
The point is, we’re all just people, gooey, crusty, oozing, itchy, flawed, terrified, myopic, capable, loving, trying people, attempting to shuffle to work, school, home, or whatever our chosen destination may be for whatever reasons those are. We’re all just trying. Sure, some people are doing weird or disgusting things in their cars, but that gross thing you can see is infinitely better than the things you can’t see people doing, like numbing themselves, escaping their own mind for a brief moment of respite that just happens to also be when they’re sharing the road with you.