Operational Neurasthenia

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It’s reasonable to adjust speed for conditions – snow, for instance. But what about drivers who drop their speed because it might snow later?

Road (and school) closings, not because it is snowing. Because it’s possible it may.

This appears to be the latest manifestation of the hysterical – in the psychiatric sense – overfixation on saaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety which has become the leitmotif of Red Giant Stage America. The slightest threat of snow – or rain, for that matter – triggers almost comical overcompensatory measures, no longer restricted the traditional idiocy of bum-rushing to the supermarket to clear the shelves of bread and milk.

In the case of rumored snow, there’s a noticeable increase in the usual hypercaution behind the wheel. The sky is clear – and so are the roads – but you’ll roll up behind drivers behaving as though there was a blizzard in process. The Phantom Menace – and it’s not a movie.

These might-as-well-be nearsighted Little Old Ladies – of all ages and sexes – drive even slower than the usual slow – slowing even more if the road curves even slightly. It might be faster to walk.

If you pass one of these people, they’ll often lay on the horn, flash their lights uproariously.


They are the ones doing 36 in a 45.

In a car – typically – with all-wheel-drive and always with ABS and traction control. The “safer” the car, the more fearful and hypercautious its driver. This is a remarkable inversion. Most people over 40 or so today can remember when rear-wheel-drive cars were the dominant type of car – and these lacked ABS and traction control. They were far less capable of maintaining traction – and stopping competently – on rain or snow-slicked roads.

But their drivers were generally more competent – which more than compensated. They grokked such things as momentum, anticipating – how to deal with a skid and most important of all, how to avoid one.

It did take skill, of course – and that presumes a willingness to develop it as well as native capacity and the inequality which attends the latter. And we all know how “society” regards those things today. Driving has been short-bused just as everything else is being leveled to the least common denominator, which is way down the well.

If it actually does snow – flurries will do –  these operational neurasthenics will reduce their speed to 20 in a 45. Many of them have adopted the custom of turning on their hazard lights in addition.

Of course, they’ll never just stay home.

Their fear – a function of lack of skill as well as rote-ingrained mantras of the Safety Cult that is America’s secular national religion – is to blame for the paralyzing of so many people’s capacity to think and act.

But it’s more than Shit Your Pants Syndrome.

There is gross incivility to consider as well. A resentment of those who aren’t operational neurasthenics.

Why don’t these nervous old ladies – of all ages and sexes – ever pull off onto the shoulder and wave the rest of us past? It’s understandable – forgivable – that some people are terrified of driving in the snow, actual or just possibly coming later tonight. Their skill level is low – so their fear level is high.

But why must they impose their gimps on others?

There is a kind of supercilious meanness to them. They don’t think it’s saaaaaaaaaaaafe to drive even half the speed limit, so everyone else must do so as well. It is of a piece with the mentality which cannot brook disagreement with anything – and which reflexively resorts to force to impose its opinion on others.

This accounts for the horn honking and headlight flashing – and most especially for the phenomenon of the slow-poker being passed increasing his speed to prevent you from passing him. He is so concerned about saaaaaaaaaaafety that he will drive recklessly to make the point.

These same people are the ones who will clap like trained seals when the automated car arrives – and yelp when non-automated cars are outlawed – because it will cement their operational neurasthenia as thickly and as inescapably as W2s and 1099s.

It will no longer be possible to leave one of the horn-honking, flashing-his-lights furies receding in your rearview. Your automated car will simply slot in behind him – and another behind you – and eventually, soporifically, you’ll get to your destination.

. .  .

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  1. I never thought I’d see drivers this slow, until I moved to the South.

    Actually, most drivers here are fast. But the slow ones are…slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.

    Then I started wondering why they close all the schools with the threat of an inch of overnight snow. Until I saw that most of the school bus drivers were 60-year-old women used to front-wheel-drive Chevettes (yes, it’s been a few years). The conga line on these country roads can be amazingly long sometimes.

  2. Back in the day the first car you had as a kid was a beater, which you beat the crap out of while learning to drive like a rum-runner. And it was good that you had the reflexes of a cat because if you didn’t you probably would have killed yourself. All that beating on your car broke it repeatedly, which was great because it gave you an excuse to fix anything that broke and make it better than before. With this process kids learned to not only be great drivers in all conditions but also gave them the chance to become mechanically knowledgeable about what a car can and can’t handle. So they not only learned how to drive, they came to know the mechanics of how cars function and why stressing them in some areas is fine and not in others. So of course we have a generation of people who are scared shitless of driving, not only have they never driven a car well past what a car probably can handle but they don’t even know what their car can or can’t handle on a mechanical level at all. Of course the other down side of this is that sometimes you get fearless idiots who not only have no driving skills but who also know nothing about what their car can and can’t handle, but if they live long enough, this group will probably at least learn how to drive eventually.

    My advice? Get your kid a hoopty or help him pick one out when he saves up the money himself. Then take him out in the country in various weather conditions and let them beat the crap out of it. The last few years I’ve gone a step further by helping a few young men build “Derby cars”. Only around here it’s Bump and Run that is most popular. They really get into it, they learn how to handle a car in all kinds of conditions and they learn how to wrench. I don’t drive in them anymore because there is only so much an old body like mine can handle. Oh and we used to do “ice derby’s” when I was a kid. It’s exactly what you think it would be, a Demolition derby on ice, sometimes with a track sometimes just lining up and driving into each other to start off.

  3. We often see the opposite extreme as well: those driving a 4wd truck who believe the laws of physics do not apply to them. Great fun to observe this particular type of brain damage in action.

    • Especially entertaining are those who believe that a duallie can stop better than a 4-wheeler, or worse, a 4WD.
      Those who know better can be identified by bags of sand, salt, or animal feed of some kind centered over the drive axle, especially in a duallie.

  4. strange runs a business with no phone or location cited on webpage. So as his location cannot be secured I can only say it can’t be in and around NYC. All analyses of risk homeostasis seem to conclude that inclusion of enhanced safety technology such as ABS and traction control creates an increased sense of safety in driver relative to its actual performance. One sees this all the time. drivers who appear to think the laws of physics have been superseded. Speeding on difficult roads such as the Taconic parkway with narrow lanes and constant curving in very severe weather conditions. Stay home ? the entire city of Houston almost shut down last week over a minor ice storm. Banks closed I called a car dealership there and finally after no answer night before and next AM got the operating VP on line who came from NJ laughing his head off at the city’s reaction to such a minor event. I have no idea what this guy is talking about unless he lives in a senior dominant area.

  5. Hey Eric/everyone,

    I learned something while in Germany about passing those who do not want you to pass them. You don’t just coast past them, you punch it past them! This does not give them time to process the “WTF?!” So by the time they figure it out, you are well past them and pulling in front of them. You are basically taking away their ability to react in a timely manner.

    However, this may mean going well over the speed limit for a few seconds, but hey. As I’m in Virginia, like you, I just gotta keep an eye out for the Revenue Man. Waze helps with that.

    Lastly, when are those guys who make the Valentine 1 gonna come out with one that cannot be detected by Five O’s radar detector detector?

    Kinda off topic. I wrote my Delegate about abolishing the law against owning radar detectors here in Virginia. She said she won’t do it as it may encourage law breaking. She’s good on a lot of issues, and I mean a lot, but right then and there I knew she was a “Law and Order” conservative. God I just can’t stand that.

  6. they have pretty much stopped using rock salt around here They spray the roads with a calcium chloride solution before it even snows that makes are cars crumble around us It had no real affect and was actually causing black ice because of the extremely cold temps we experienced for about 3 weeks but they just kept spraying it The side roads were littered with car imprints in the snow banks

  7. It’s akin to the way Christians use the 1A to mean “freedom of Christianity” and Muslims use the 1A to mean “freedom of Islam.”. Libertarians invariably say “until I harm othes” and when does something does go wrong the Libertarian will put the onus on the other person to prove any harm was done. Eric’s in the mood to test how many drift skills points he can accumulate in the snow with his friends I’m sure it’ll be touch luck to anyone else when something happens.Clover

  8. Eric: “Of course, they’ll never just stay home.”

    I stay home here in Florida, since the old lady in your picture is an example of a FL “alert driver” moving slowly along in her padded-top Cadillac. If one has a death wish ride a motorcycle here.

    The passing lane in FL is the right lane – the little old lady, and most everyone else, is in the left (slow?) lane. A “genius” politician has even suggested making the right lane the passing lane.

    Only rational time to drive here is after 9pm – it’s bedtime for Bonzo.

    • Hi Libertyx,

      I have more tolerance for the glaucomic old who are, after all, old. What spikes my blood pressure is the tendency of people years away from their first set of Depends driving as if they were glaucomic old people. Imagine what these people will be like when they are, in fact, old and glaucomic. Sigh.

      Well, by then, we’ll all be meatsacks in automated cars anyhow…

  9. Hahah – once again hit the nail on the head – here in the uk, it’s like that – times 10!! At least Americans can be enterprising and get their shit done when they have to. Here, the mere thought of snow paralyses the nation with fear (just read the daily mail)…. everything seizes up… cars, trains even heathrow closes and hundreds of flights are cancelled….

    Here, on a normal day, in Health and safety crazy Britain… people drive below the speed limit in the fast lane…. and if you overtake them from from the wrong side (illegal here) it turns out your the a hole and they keep flashing you…. you will love it here….

  10. If anything, if the weather is about to get bad, its time to hustle and get to where your going……. Not the time to slow down and get caught in it.

    Common sense is not very common it seems.

  11. They will never consider staying home so I do. Well at least I walk if I go out.
    It’s gotten to the point to where I stay home when it snows just because I don’t want to deal with people who can’t drive in the snow.

    • I know I avoid it if possible. It’s even worse where I am, since snowplowing isn’t done as well as it used too. So it’s a double whammy, crummier drivers and crummier roads.

  12. Everyone loves a good scary story. It all starts in the 1970s with Eyewitness News.


    The more over the top you could make the story, the better. The use of small 16mm film cameras (and after the attempts to corner the silver market), portable video tape machines and live microwave linking systems only fed the beast. Now it was not enough to report a story, you had to sell it. The station owners demanded an ROI on all that expensive equipment, the reporters got agents and make themselves part of the story to raise their value. One side effect is that reporters are now desired for their looks over their knowledge, so aside from the 1 credit meteorology course they took in college they’re just as clueless as the rest of us. So they warn of the horrible “black ice” that can apparently happen at any temperature below 65 degrees, and to carry tire chains and other paraphernalia to protect yourself from the onslaught, even though most of the people watching have no idea how to use chains, and many cars lack the clearance for them anyway.

    Then came the great expansion of TV licenses in the 1980s and early 90s, and competition went from a gentlemen’s game to all out war. War over ad dollars and eyeballs. Now everyone was all in on trying to make a buck. But most towns don’t have enough going on to support all that apparatus, so it’s up to the newscaster to create a tempest in a teapot. And nothing scares the old timers like a good snow storm. Snow is great for car dealers (by far the most important advertising segment when it comes to television) because they can talk up high margin 4WD cars and SUveees. Early season snows are gold for TV news because it is usually heavy and wet, bringing down trees that still have leaves and knocking out power all over the place. If you’re not impacted you’re watching and reminded of how lucky you are to still have TV. Good thing you stocked up, since the roads might be blocked by trees and “remember, any power line on the ground might still be energized!!!!!” Except that it popped the breaker or fuse before it hit the ground, but never mind that. It’s all dangerous, all the time! Shelter in place! Duck and cover! Cower in the corner! Buy a Tahoe! You tell someone something enough times and eventually they believe it. You show someone spun out in the ditch enough times and eventually our poor brains put ourselves in that vehicle. While some might take the steps to prevent such an occurrence, more often we lose faith in our own ability. I think the fear increases with age just because we see more than the young.

    In the past it led to wisdom, now that has been replaced by fear.

    • Indeed.

      Our local “I Witness Nooz” (channel 9, Charlotte) was doing a story on a fire several years ago and rolling tape of it. The anchor said, “Just look at those flames.” If you were looking, what else would you see? It was the entire screen. Or, was it Pavlovian in nature, like a command for a dog to respond to?

      If it bleeds it leads, if it’s sex its next…

        • eric, good morning. I’m going to try to post a link the gist of which is a couple stories linked together with world famous persons in the know of top secret govt. programs that make questions of 250 million beings on the moon and an unknown number on Mars.

          The US tried twice to detonate a nuclear weapon on the moon for supposedly scientific purposes to determine what would happen. Both times the weapon was turned away by some unknown force.

          Astronauts have gone on record to say there is a huge colony(s) of aliens on the moon(dark side) and some posit the moon is really a space ship. Anyway, lots of good articles linked in the one I’ll post.


        • See the bubble headed bleached blonde,
          Who comes on at 5,
          She can tell you about the plane crash,
          With a gleam in her eye.

  13. The matrix is real, it hates you, and feeds off your suffering. It knows that hordes of herd mentality slow pokes piss you off so it sends them to you then laughs about it.
    Abandon all hope, ye who enter….

  14. Eric, you touched on it, “fear”. It is what now permeates the U.S. culture.

    Fear of terrorism. Fear of “climate change”. Fear of drunk drives. Fear of non-government approved drug users. Stranger Danger. The list is practically endless.

    Its roots lie in the Post-Millennial Pietism of which Rothbard wrote. It has brought Marxist thought (the welfare state among other things) and culture to these shores.

    From Herman Goering, “[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” to H.L. Mencken, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Fear is the tool used by authoritarians to control the masses. It works every time.

    Cops screaming obscenities at people to gain compliance; National Security Advisers talking about “the smoking gun being a mushroom cloud”; Presidents warning of “drones of death spraying chemical and biological weapons”, or just the idea that someone, somewhere, somehow might be engaging in some activity of which we do not approve.

    Our society is marinating in fear.

    You cannot dictate to, or be a dictator over, someone who is not afraid.

    • The thing is, no one ever calls them out for “Takes one to know one.”

      We (I mean the USA, not the individuals that make up the country), became terrorists when Curtis LeMay implemented the “strategic bombing” strategy in order to secure a more prominent position for aircraft in war. Prior to World War Two it was against human nature to attack civilians in a war. This is why WW1 was fought to a stalemate of course, but one takeaway was that a modern war strategy might be to destroy supply lines and production of war materiel.

      But with the introduction of heavy lift aircraft it became possible to fight an air war. The idea at first was to destroy production, but later the horrible psychopaths in charge thought bombing civilians, even those not directly involved in war-making, would destroy the morale of the population and even lead to government overthrow by a disenfranchised population. This, of course, is preposterous. Any survivors will likely double down on vilifying the enemy, or turn to revenge for the attack. Even Curtis LeMay knew that if the US lost the war he’d be put on trial (and probably convicted) for war crimes for his actions.

      So now we have drone warfare and “precision” arms. The former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama, used them to kill many civilians in his continuation of the various wars on military tactics. There have been “mistakes” like bombing hospitals, and intentional civilian bombings under the guise of taking out terrorists -so called collateral damage. Now Trump is stirring the pot in Syria for some reason, even though he campaigned on staying the hell out. And of course Afghanistan and Korea, and the rest.

      To the rest of the fear culture, well, that’s pretty easy. Headlines sell papers. Papers sell ads. But advertising budgets are being strained because eyeballs are being drawn away from traditional mass media. Individual show views are at an all-time low. TVs are being used as displays for X-boxes and Playstations more than for cable boxes. News as a source of revenue is dead, at least in the traditional way of millions of consumers and select few making millions off their consumption. So they go lower and lower, trying to appeal to the brain stem instead of the cerebral cortex, because it is much easier to get an emotional reaction over an intellectual one. The fact that it benefits those in power is a bonus.


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