February 25, 2010
I’ve been saving this for a “slow news day,” perhaps a walk where nothing worth noting occurs, but now is a good a time as any to throw it out.
As you know, from time to time I observe things on the road that I can’t quite explain, as hard or as long as I might contemplate them. The silverware conundrum, for instance. Kerry the wandering bum said the spoons were from drug users, but that only accounts for some of the spoons, and doesn’t explain the forks and knives. Then there's the single child’s shoe phenomenon, about which I have a theory, but which still sort of puzzles me. And the localized events, like the West Terre Haute Mass Turtle Dieoff and the llinois Baby Garter Snake Dieoff.
Well, here’s something I’ve been observing throughout the walk, from Michigan on down, for nearly 1700 miles. It has to do with the behavior of drivers.
When I am on a four-lane road that has little or no shoulder, requiring me to walk on or close to the edge of the oncoming lanes of traffic, most cars coming toward me in the outside lane will move over into the inside lane or at least go about halfway over. Police and other emergency vehicles invariably do this. But sometimes cars that are coming toward me in the outside lane will not move over even when there is no traffic in the inside lane and nothing else is preventing them from doing so. They just refuse to give up the outside lane, even though I'm in it. Let's call them Refuseniks. But that's not the curious thing. The phenomenon is that at least 80% of the Refuseniks are women. Women of all ages and ethnicities.
I know men tend to drive bigger vehicles than women do, like fat pickup trucks with wide outside mirrors. And men also tend to drive faster than women do, so they’re more likely to be in the inside lane to begin with. But the Refuseniks are persons who are already in the outside lane and coming toward me, not those in the inside lane. And I’ve observed that men tend to move over, and women tend not to move over, no matter what size vehicles they’re driving.
I regard moving over, when it is possible to do so, as an act of courtesy and safety, and I appreciate it. But since the phenomenon of refusing to move over is such a heavily gender-specific one, I cannot automatically conclude that the high percentage of Refuseniks who are women are discourteous or unsafe drivers. However, they are behaving differently, based on their gender.
We're told that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. It's possible that this planetary divide exists behind the wheel, as well. I'm just not sure why, although I have a couple of theories. Perhaps the readers have some ideas.