MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - Honk if you think like a Jane Austen driver


If Jane Austen were alive today, she would add a few more universal truths to the observation for which she's known - you know, the one about a wealthy man being in dire need of a wife.

A driving Jane Austen - not an Empress-style, power-suit-clad maiden, but a Jane Austen in the car - would observe the universal truth that, if you are the only vehicle for miles and just in front of you, on the right, hesitating about entering the highway, is one of those broad-butt SUVs, the deer-in-the-headlights driver, just before it's too late, will swing the vehicle's mass, slowly, in your path.

(Wasn't that last paragraph, which was one complete sentence, Jane-like?)

Jane brakes, articulates a 75-word discourse on the distressing inefficacy of the human condition and the state of mind of the human ahead in particular, and with a gentlewoman's sigh, awaits acceleration because, naturally, the SUV turned just as the passing lane ended and the double yellow line began.

But the SUV doesn't recognizably accelerate.

Ponderously, to the point that Jane hears its joints creaking, the vehicle increases speed in 1-mile-per-hour increments until it settles, exhaling, to 5 mph below the speed limit.

And there it stays.

And there Jane, or you, stays, logically recognizing that while this cretin hasn't committed a felonious misdeed, you tremble with the desire to do something drastic, like gently shake your index finger in their direction and tightly purse your lips.

Only when a passing lane opens up does the vehicle accelerate, exceeding the speed limit by 20 percent, maintaining this velocity until the lane ends.

If we still traveled about in phaetons and stagecoaches, one could amuse onself by unleashing the mastiff slavering in the back and simpering as the beast nipped the heels of the horses ahead. At the very least, since we're all out in the open air (or at least the driver is), we could vociferously convey our views to the individual ahead of us, something we do all the time in the car, or at least I do.

I am on child No. 3 out of four in the "teaching how to drive" stage. One of the first lessons learned - after, "You do everything I say, INSTANTLY, without question or argument" - is this truism:

"Ninety-five percent of the other drivers are idiots."

I know that this doesn't offend you, gentle reader, because I left a generous 5 percent to represent us. And I certainly won't offend the tomfool twitty simpletons, because they don't know where they are or what they're doing, much less how they come across.

Jane did such an exemplary job of articulating her observations: so delightfully, discreetly, agreeably waspish. How I wish that she were alive today, engaging us with her opinions on the upcoming election, say, or the Occupy movement, or even the furious mle on whether the potato is good for us.

Such sense the woman had. And sensibility.

Dayton columnist Carolyn Henderson, who manages Steve Henderson Fine Art, can be reached at 382-9775 or via email at carolyn@stevehendersonfineart.com. More of her writing is at middleagedplague.areavoices.com.


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