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What this note is about

So. A couple of weeks ago, elsewhere on this internet thing, a Gentle Reader happened to point out that if somebody passes you on the right, then you are doing it wrong. The left lane is the passing lane, and if some asshole is passing you on the right, you are clearly not passing and need to get back over.

I just want to state right here, nearly at the beginning, that this note, here in this Tohu Bohu, is not about passing on the right, nor about being passed on the right.

I mention that as soon as I can, because my immediate reaction to that G.R.’s comment was to disagree with it, based on all the situations in which a person may be passed on the right without doing it wrong. In fact, I did respond with a note about my Nutmeg Left Exits, the which have been particularly annoying me lately as I have been taking one on my route home from the theater. I don’t like getting into the left exit in lots of traffic, but I really don’t like that left exit in the dead of night, when there are the occasional 80mph cars that come out of freaking nowhere, and I want to be going not much more than the speed limit of 50mph, not only because of my aversion to speeding tickets but because I am coming up on an exit ramp. When there is more traffic, we are mostly all confined to a range around sixtyish, and, well, we all deal with it. Late at night, less predictability.

But I wasn’t going to write about passing on the right. Because the point, my point, is that (as I was saying, when I so rudely interrupted myself) I instantly came up with half-a-dozen situations in which I could be passed on the right without doing anything wrong myself. My immediate reaction was to disagree, that’s my point. Or, more accurately, to except and exempt myself—oh, I agree with it as a general principle (was my reaction) but now let’s focus on where and when it doesn’t apply to me.

I often have that reaction. On the internet, I think, more than in conversation, but I do have that habit in conversation as well. Somebody makes a perfectly valid point, and I feel compelled to come up with circumstances where it does not hold. I think that’s a useful analytical skill, actually, and it can make for good conversations, so long as everybody is careful not to give off that hostile vibe. That part is much harder on-line, in my experience, which is one reason why I so rarely take part in on-line discussions.

Anyway, I noticed myself doing that thing I do, and I noticed myself noticing that, and then, you know, I clicked the next button and went on to something else. You know?

And then, over the last couple of weeks, I have been driving on limited-access highways, and have found myself taking more care to stay out of the left lane unless I am passing. I did get passed on the right, once, and found myself mentally defending my situation, and then ruled against it: I had missed an opportunity to safely get back into the right lane because I didn’t want to be bothered with a merge, and by the time the road was clear again the guy behind me had pulled to the right and passed me. He was an asshole, clearly, but I shouldn’t have been in the left. And the next time, I wasn’t.

Is this something y’all notice happening to you? I rarely notice it. A two-liner thrown out on the internet, an initial reaction to argue with it, and then later action, actual behavioral difference, as persuasion had taken place?

Because if that happens a lot, and we become culturally aware that it happens a lot, that we are open to persuasion by good points made even when we disagree with them when they are presented, then we could move toward a healthier and more productive understanding of opinion, persuasion, and discussion. Eventually. If we talk about it enough.

Which is what this note is actually about.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Two things:

(1) Do you have that argumentative reaction more to defend yourself, or just in general? I have it in general, and really not about myself at all; I just find myself reacting to sweeping statements of any sort by immediately looking for exceptions.

(2) I don't think it's an asshole thing to pass on the right. At least not when I do it. :^)

(Seriously, though, I think it's much less of a dick move to smothly pass someone on the right, than to come up behind them, slam on your brakes, flash your high beams, and otherwise insist that they move because you want to drive fast. You need to do it smoothly and safely, but it can be done.)

(At least when I do it.)

Those aren't my initials at all!

I had a similar reaction to a similar circumstance just recently, where someone said something with which I disagreed, and I said why, then I thought about it and changed my mind. I forget the extent to which generals, particulars, and circumstances were involved, and in what proportion.

But I'm happy to have changed my mind on the subject, 'cause I was wrong. But I'm not wrong about the passing lane.


Left exits, highway hazards, and other occasions of need are acceptable reasons to occupy the passing lane without actually passing; taxes and tags not included; your mileage may vary.

Yes. I have done this. I think it is a sign of maturity, a willingness to step out of one's unthinking habits and see the world from another point of view. My children give me ample opportunity. Not something one can do all day long and still be a contributing member of society, but good for the soul every once in a while.

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