3 min read

The Slow Down

The Slow Down
Photo by Joey Kyber / Unsplash

My morning commute was going like clockwork. I had left the house a tad late, merged off the entry ramp, ignored the 60mph speed limit, like I always did, and got up to my usual cruising speed of 78mph in the left lane. I looked around for a bit and I wondered why the three lanes of traffic had different implied speeds as I passed several cars.  Why would anyone be content just going the speed limit?  Was it just because there weren’t enough police to every stretch of road or was it something else. I mulled on that until the Nissan in front of me started to slow down. “Well this isn’t expected, I'm in the fast lane.” I think” There must be a slow car in front of him". I wait for a turn in the road to see. The turn came, no cars were in front. He was the slow car.  I get a little close to him and try to make him move over, respectfully that is.  He was doing 65mph now and there were cars starting to stack up behind me. He needed to go faster or merge over. His brake lights went on again and my speedometer sank to 60mph. Confused about the cause of the slowdown, I started looking around. All the cars around me were going 60mph, Curious, and there were no cars in front of the Nissan I was following for the next 400 feet. Even more curious, the same thing was true for the middle lane and the right lane.  "WHY?" I wonder to myself. Then I saw it, and everything made sense. "Come on" I think to the Nissan in front of me " go faster or move over". To my surprise, the car to my right moved back and into the right lane creating an opening that had no cars in front of it.  A plan quickly began to form in my head, a plan that would put all my past experience, all my knowledge, to the test.  My heart began to beat a little faster as I prepared to merge, knowing that this plan could backfire and end up costing me.  Blinker on. Merge. Blinker off. I could see it clearly now, the sheriff SUV nestled in the right lane about 30 feet in front of me. He was going 60mph, silently daring anyone to pass him while displaying a textbook first level of force.   And no one had, for a while at least, the gap between him and the nearest car in front of him was at least 600 feet by now. The other two lanes didn’t want to go faster than him and matched his speed, fearing  that passing him would get them pulled over.  I was now in position and ready to put my plan into action. I set my speed to 65mph and started my approach. I was going to pass a Sheriff SUV going 5 mph over the speed limit.

As I reached the sheriff car I looked back and saw that I was the only one, nobody else had dared to follow me. It would just be the sheriff and I for this dance. I turned back and had to remind myself to breathe. We were now side by side. My heart was beating faster.  I kept my gaze forward, glued to my speedometer and the road ahead, not wanting to risk going faster than I intended by taking a glance at the Officer. That was a luxury I couldn’t afford.  Time began to slow, and I could feel my blood rushing through my body with every heartbeat.  I went through all my past experiences, reassuring myself that this plan would work.  “It had to” I thought “they never turn their lights on when I go 5 mph over”.  The 30 seconds of time that it would take to pass him felt like an eternity. It was taking too long. I felt a little awkward being the only one that ventured to pass him. I wanted this to be over, to push the pedal down and get out of this situation. But I couldn’t risk it, the 5mph difference between us would have to be enough. I would just have to suffer through it. As I finished passing him, I realized that I was going 68mhp. “Oh no. Too fast, too fast” I thought and released the gas. 63mph. “No, too slow” I set cruise control to 65mph and glanced back again, panicking a little.  I was about 50 feet past the Sheriff car now and saw the wall of traffic that was  backed up behind the Sheriff's SUV, everyone forced to go the same speed.  I had done it. I had passed the Sheriff and not gotten pulled over.