A conspiracy of maroons

February 11, 2007 at 11:43 pm 1 comment

How many times has this happened to you…

You’re driving along on the freeway, maybe a little bit faster than the rest of the traffic. Someone comes up right on your back bumper, stays there for a bit, abruptly passes you on the right, cuts back in front of you, and speeds off into the distance. In a few miles you catch up to this formerly speeding fool who is now blocking your lane by (slowly) pacing the car next to them. I’ve always wondered, what’s up with that? This maroon was in such a hurry a little while ago, what changed?

I have a theory, or two.

Our brains are well-equipped to process the sensory information we get when we’re hunting and gathering. You know, mostly walking around picking up stuff to eat with the occasional outburst of running to tackle a wooly Mammoth or something. Pretty doable from an information processing perspective.

But now we’re hurtling down a concrete slab at 70 (or uh, 80) miles an hour in metal boxes with almost none of the sensory input we evolved with; wind in our face, weather, rocks under foot, branches whipping our legs, etc. If we concentrate, we can do it and do it really well.

What happens when we need to change a CD or answer the phone (not that this ever happens) or the kids start acting up in the back seat? We suddenly have to divide our attention between processing all this information coming at us at high speed and whatever is distracting us. Our brain knows that we’re hurtling along at a comparatively frightening speed with lots of data to process, but we just lost a major part of our conscious processing power.

Going back to our hunting-gathering days, we liked to have a buddy. Someone to help us gather our piles of food and also defend them. I think when we get distracted on the road we subconsciously find a buddy. Our peripheral vision finds a large (compared to ourselves) object moving slower than we and are tells the brain “Hey, if we match speeds with that thing, you can go ahead and use some of our brain cells to get out your ‘Hair Bands of the 80s Greatest Hits’ CD, or take the call from that client whose name you can never quite pronounce, or try to remember the names and parents of the children causing that ruckus in the back seat. No problem, we’ve got it covered.”


Or else it’s just a conspiracy of maroons thwarting our transportation-related goals.


Entry filed under: Cars, Humor.

How’s the view from Vista? I want my menu bar… on the top

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Matt  |  February 12, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I love that CD!


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