This hypothesis was put forward by Mr Oh Waily during our latest seven hour car journey north. It is meant to explain a certain open-road driving phenomenon that seems to be widespread here in Godzone*.
Here is a little background information before we begin.
Without fail most people I know will comment, at one time or another, about the ridiculous open road driving displayed by other people. Specifically this comment, bleat, complaint, criticism, whinge, moan, gripe and general sourness will relate to the seeming ability of some drivers to doddle along a good 10 or 20 kilometres an hour below the open road speed** on those stretches of road where passing is, at best, iffy. But once they spot the passing lane coming up, oh boy can they manage to get that accelerator pedal hard to the floor and generate a speed anywhere up to 10 kilometres per hour above the open road speed. This, of course, means that those folk who have managed to patiently wait behind the said dodder until a safe opportunity to pass happens along now need to exceed the speed limit by anything up to 20 kph. And we all know that the traffic police enjoy sitting at the end of the passing lanes waiting for just such opportunities.
Compounding this increased speed irritation is the fact that a kill switch seems to kick in as soon as the lane merging sign appears and we are back to single lane traffic. And once again the world of the dodder reappears to the immense frustration of those left with no hope of passing for another ten kilometres or so.
As you can imagine, this is a hot topic of conversation around the work water cooler*** post-holiday or post-weekend away. It is also a normal part of my conversational output during the mind-numbing hours spent travelling from one end of this island to the other. We have ample opportunity to watch this phenomenon in action, and suffer from it too.
But this past trip Mr Oh Waily offered an explanation for this seemingly ridiculous behaviour.
Enter the Sabre-Toothed Tiger Theory of Driving.
Despite man’s obvious advancements we still have that deep down caveman lingering within us. Internal plumbing, electricity and mass public transport may make us seem civilised, but given half a chance that tiny part of the human brain that lingers from caveman days pops up and shows itself.
Witness the overtaking maneouvres on any passing lane in this country, or any motorway for that matter, and you will find that no matter how slow a car may have been driven before it will rather miraculously find another gear when threatened by the thought that others may be getting in front of us.
Mr Oh Waily posits that this is a throwback to when our caveman ancestors led a life on foot. After all, when that mangy long-toothed cat was feeling a bit peckish and it was between you and that toothless old hag of a wise woman, it certainly wasn’t going to be you now was it?
So he believes that whenever a dodder gets a case of lead-foot on the inside lane it is simply a case of collective memory causing them to rather irritatingly attempt to keep the tiger off their back.
Shame there isn’t actually a tiger.
So keep that in mind the next time you venture out on to the open road, is that driver the old hag or the tiger’s dinner? Which are you?
* feel free to indicate if this is an issue external to New Zealand, enquiring minds would like to know if the theory holds elsewhere or is endemic to these shores only.
** 100 kph for those who may be interested in these things.
*** or equivalent.