While driving through the panhandle of Florida, and the southern fringes of Alabama and Mississippi, I wondered about a certain invention that has made driving seem almost effortless. I am not talking about automatic transmissions or independent suspension here. I am talking about Cruise Control.
Cruise Control, while not that auto-pilot function found in planes and some (very expensive) large boats, saves the fatigue associated with having to maintain a more or less steady pressure on the gas pedal. A situation which gives rise to a condition we once called "deadfoot". After hours of highway driving, one would stop, get out, and notice one's right foot was sound asleep. It would have snored if it had nose and throat.
Nowadays, almost every car made comes with Cruise Control. Yet, I do not find that most drivers actually use it. My father never used his, for example, in the belief that he could get better gas mileage without it. He was probably right. In his case. Having been a traveling salesman for 40+ years, always by car, he became "one with the machine"; he could "feel" the efficiency through his foot.
I, too, once felt that Zen "oneness" with my vehicles. Back in the days when I preferred standard shift transmissions and motorcycles. The car was an extension of my body. I have heard WWII fighter pilots express something similar when they talking about climbing into their planes as more like becoming a part of it than getting into it.
But I digress...
There are many drivers on the roads today that eschew the use of Cruise Control. I do not know their reasons but I can spot them easily enough. They are the ones who swiftly come up alongside you and then hang there in, or near, your "blindspot" where they become the "bitter clingers" or part of the "cluster." I have written of these before. The little clumps of cars traveling down the interstates; the herd instinct, perhaps, causing it.
I watch the non-CC drivers as they speed along to catch up to a cluster ahead of them when they find themselves alone (or almost alone) between clusters. And, just as they would pass the cars in the slow lane, reduce their speed (possibly unconsciously) to match the others.
These people are probably like the fans who follow The Grateful Dead around the country, or any devoted fans of any genre of music or film. You see them at Star Trek movies and conventions.
They simply must be part of the herd.