Regular Road Sage readers will know that I am essentially a loser who drives around in an old minivan – the epitome of bourgeois complacency and decline.
I'm the guy who people in their 20s worry about becoming. I'm a cautionary tale riding on four wheels.
For instance, my car has so little pick-up that I believe its engine is run by a team of hyperintelligent mice. When I press my foot on the accelerator, one of the mice runs across the engine and tells another one of the mice of my wish to go faster. That mouse, in turn, goes to a head mouse who wears a captain's hat, and he tells a team of mice they must now begin the acceleration process. It's slow. It doesn't so much "get you from A to B," as it "gets you" from A to B.
Regular readers will also know that this has never stopped me from reviling drivers who drive slowly in the passing lane, as well as those who clog up the middle lane of three-lane highways. These are the left-lane hogs and middle-lane morons. Theirs is a dangerous habit, since it leads people to pass on the right-hand side. It's also against Section 147 of the Highway Traffic Act, which states that, on a highway with more than two lanes running in the same direction, the slow traffic is to occupy the right lane.
This practice bothers me so much that I dedicate an annual column to lambasting it. After these columns run, I normally receive a host of supportive e-mails from highly intelligent readers who also despise left-lane hogs – and an equal number from those who defend their right to sit in the left lane like so much human waste. To the latter, I'm a speed freak obsessed with criticizing other drivers. They want to know what my problem is. I usually say, "My problem is that you're too stupid to move into the right lane if you are not passing."
Lately, however, I've wondered if they have a point. Could it be that I drive a vehicle so bereft of the ability to provide a pleasurable drive, that I project my frustration, envy and ire on left-lane hogs and middle-lane morons? I blame them the same way someone old and overweight (for example, me) blames someone who's young and fit for getting all the attention. Is it possible that my view would change if I was seated behind the wheel of a flash car?
So, I borrowed a 2018 BMW 530e xDrive, the seventh generation of the 5 Series and the first 5 Series plug-in Hybrid. It had all the goodies: advanced driver-assist aystem, a TwinPower Turbo gasoline engine, the Driving Dynamic Control switch that allows the driver to choose from comfort, sport, eco or pro settings. It also came with iDrive connectivity, in which all the car's navigation, telephone and entertainment options are displayed on a high-resolution screen. I had the BMW 530e for a week and hit the highway to see if – ensconced in such a luxe ride – my blood would still boil at the sight of a left-lane hog.
I believe driving the BMW 530e is more pleasant than sitting in most people's living rooms. It's a climate-controlled luxury palace. Its handling was optimum. The first day with the BMW 530e, I contentedly ran errands for four hours. On the highway, its acceleration was exhilarating. Most importantly, unlike sitting in most people's living rooms, there was no need for small talk.
While the ride itself was nice, the knowledge of what the car could do speed-wise was irksome. I knew that were I on the Autobahn or some other such highway, then I could open it up. That's never going to be the case in urban traffic. This made the left-lane hogs even more repellent. The worst were other BMW drivers who had parked their vehicles in the passing lane and then made like it was slow motion. They were few, but they were infuriating.
I could have used the BMW 530e to snake through traffic, but I hate those kinds of drivers as well. By the time my test drive was over, I realized that comparing my views of left-lane hogs when I was in an old minivan to those when I was in a BMW was a lot like the story of the "country mouse and the city mouse." In this case, though, instead of learning that they should each be happy with what they have, the country mouse and the city mouse each learn that they really, really hate left-lane hogs and middle-lane morons.
There is no substitute for firsthand experience.