"If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain."

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.


A Library in Your Pocket

February 5, 2010

Why Rage Against The Road: Let OCD Set You Free

When I am driving by myself on the interstate long distances, my otherwise dormant OCD comes full throttle alive like an aberrant offshoot of Jack's bean stock.  I make the Rain Man seem like a welcome traveling companion. One thing I do semi-regularly is speed. Nothing overtly suicidal, but still calculated to push the envelope and shave as many minutes as possible from my ETA based on posted speed limits and the latest google updates.

The trick is to find a rabbit. That's the driver that has to have the lead.  The rabbit speeds up, slows down and speeds up again any time you even look like you might be thinking about making a move for the lead.  Catch the rabbit's draft, relax  and enjoy the view. Actually, that's not bad advice for life.

Another obsessive habit I have is reciting poems. I have maybe half a dozen or so memorized. One in particular called Kubla Khan I race to recite in less than a minute. I start the second the new minute begins. I have broken the 60 second barrier only a few times, but each victory has been so sweet.  If anyone wants to hear me go for the record, I'd be happy to upload my latest attempt for your listening pleasure.

Sometimes I imagine how this special talent might one day prove as indispensable as Rudolph's red nose. From there I easily drift into a forensic profile of Rudolph, the troubled young reindeer gone rogue, which is probably within rifle range of Sarah Palin taking dead aim on the young buck. Not to suggest she would intentionally slaughter a defenseless animal, at least not without a proper license and all the fixins for reindeer stew on hand.

When the digital LED screen glows a new green minute, I cut immediately to Kubla Khan. Even though I have only beat the clock a few times, I routinely finish in under 75 seconds. I'm pretty sure this is world record territory. I am also pretty sure Hasbro won't be rushing to market at a Target near you Poetry Road Games although I'm already thinking 'the road not taken' would be a catchy tag line. Not that the Robert Frost Estate or even FrostFriends would ever support such crass exploitation.

In daylight driving I sometimes hold my breath between the one-tenth mile markers. I try to hold it for a mile. There seems to be some correlation between how fast I can recite Kubla Khan and how long I can hold my breath. I doubt it is exactly a 1:1 correlation, but that's pretty much where my math skills end.

Another thing I do when I'm in hillier areas is pick a landmark at the furthest distance ahead that I can actually describe to myself with confidence and estimate the distance. I then immediately reset the secondary trip odometer and calculate my ETA.  When done,  I wait for the next full minute to dawn, take a well timed breath and charge Kubla Khan.

I once read that men are better at estimating spatial distances. Challenge taken, I am amazed how many miles I can see on a clear day. I know we can see planets and galaxies millions of light years away, but we aren't actually seeing them. Its a parlor trick of Einsteinian proportions. All we see is the light they radiate after it travels through time at the insanely constant speed of 186,000 miles per second.  That's a lot of Kubla Khans.

The author may be right though. I am terrible at estimating distances. Maybe my latest invention - a zoom feature for the windshield - will help. Meanwhile,  at a hill's crest I have been able to make out landmarks nearly ten miles out. I read there is a mathematical formula to determine visible distance on flat earth and the maximum is claimed to be 2.9 miles. I don't understand the math. Possibly it has do with the curvature of the earth. I don't believe the claim, but its out there.

These mind journeys are a form of high speed meditation that keep keep me clear of road rage. They may, of course, generate road rage for those in my draft.  Sorry about that.

Warning: I am nobody's rabbit.

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