Sunday, February 10, 2008

Skipping Generations

When I was 9, I went on a road trip with my grandparents to visit my aunt and uncle in the greater Houston area. It was quite a drive, and I distinctly remember a remark my grandfather made. He had a mid-to-late 70s Oldsmobile 88, and it had cruise control, which he used quite a bit during the long drive.

He would remark that other drivers would pass him, get in front of him, then slow down. He would then pass the other driver, but he was going the same speed, because of the cruise control. A few minutes later, the other driver would pass him. This really wasn't a problem, because we were on the multi-lane interstate, but it bugged him repeatedly.

Fast forward 20 years. Grandpa is 17 years gone.

It's 1999. I have a car with cruise control. We are on the interstate on a road trip. I have the cruise control on. I open my mouth and say, "Why on earth are these other drivers passing me and then slowing down? I have cruise control on, so it's not me."

Echoes across the years.

But, as we hope every generation increases the sum of human knowledge and inquiry, here's my 2008 question on top of that one. Why is it that when I am in the right lane on the highway, and I move into the left lane to pass a slower car, that car speeds up? I often have cruise control on, and I almost never speed, so I end up getting back in behind the other car. I'm comfortable enough in my masculinity not to feel threatened by this, but it bugs me. Repeatedly.


CrankyProf said...

My dad used to say that people were suspicious, and figured that you must know about a speed trap up ahead.

As for the second -- my dim view of human nature says it's sheer, cussed, "ain't no one gonna get in front of me."

GDad said...

I agree with your second assessment there.

Jen said...

Competition. I bet if you had slowed they would have too. Were you wearing a hat? I tend to speed up so I can be in front of someone wearing a hat.

GDad said...


I wouldn't have considered the hat angle. In winter, I rarely wear a hat. However, as my cranial hirsuteness diminishes, I'll probably be a hat person. Maybe you should not drive near me, as you would be compelled to pass me.

I remember reading years ago that Dave Barry observed that slow drivers tend to wear hats more than you'd expect.

Anonymous said...

Does your cruise control just keep the engine revs constant? If so then any variation from a totally flat road would make your speed change.


GDad said...


It's a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid. The cruise control is pretty high tech, so I'm guessing the issue is more in the psychological realm than the mechanical realm.

My motorcycle's "cruise control," on the other hand, is a little lever/pipe clamp thing that locks the throttle in position, so it would be exactly what you describe.