Incredible hulkification of the driver...
Incredible hulkification of the driver... RapidEye/gettyimages.com

A person whose Twitter handle is 1176luv and apparently lives in New York City declared on Saturday, August 10, that a woman in Seattle was a hero for forcing cars off the bus-only lane with her body. The video of her doing this went semi-viral (thousands of retweets and likes). We see her directing car after car on 6th and Olive to leave the bus lane. Some cars, true, go around her and return to the bus lane. But the point of the video is to show the utter lack of enforcement of the bus-only rule in Seattle. The words on the lane mean nothing to the drivers. All that matters to them is not getting stuck in traffic, and this results in buses getting stuck in their traffic. And so the whole purpose of the bus lane, which is to encourage people to use public transportation because it's faster and more efficient than automobiles in a dense urban core, is not realized.

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Not surprisingly, 1176luv's tweet attracted a lot of haters.

1176luv deleted these hateful comments, reported them Twitter, and expressed their horror in a blistering twitter thread.

It's been really eye opening reading the violent, psychotic comments of drivers in these replies. "I would have run that b*tch over" etc. Literally hundreds of comments like that. It just cements the idea that a huge % of drivers should be banned for driving for life.

And:

And then of course, hundreds of people couldn't wait to point out that if she did it in THEIR town, she'd get her ass kicked, shot, run over etc. Like they're proud of the fact that drivers are violent, feral vermin where they live.

And:

It really drives home what we're dealing with on the roads. Just endless hordes of aggressive, violent, murderous, misogynist trash who are prepared to defend their vehicular entitlement violently if necessary. Cars turn people into deranged pigs, and they have to go.

This last point must be taken seriously. A car does not simply transport an individual from one place to another but, more importantly, also transforms the personality of the individual. This transformation happens either immediately or over time. In the case of the immediate transformation, a normal and even nice person enters the car and, as they drive, becomes an impulsive brute. We can call this process the hulkification of the driver. But once the person leaves the car, they are normal again, nice again, are jocular again. In the case of the longer transformation, the driver becomes a Hulk for life. They are mean when in the car, and just as mean when out of it. Many of the comments that followed 1176luv's "A True Hero in Seattle" were by the latter type of driver.

The question we must ask, then, is this: Why do cars have this negative effect on drivers? One possibility is the car, in reality, is not the same as the ones millions see in hundreds upon hundreds of car ads on TV and the web. The car in the former is often caught in bad traffic or is endlessly looking for parking spaces; the one in the latter is always moving, always going somewhere, never slowed down by traffic lights or jams, never failing to find a parking space in the best possible location. This discrepancy results in the frustration that eventually hardens into a permanent crudity of feeling. The driver tries to make real the image of mobility with every trick in the book. But none of these tricks ever really work. No matter how hard he/she tries to force the matter, they always end up going nowhere fast. The driver does not blame the false images of personal freedom in their heads, but the other drivers, or the buses, or the cyclists, or pedestrians crossing the street, or the frequency of the lights, or traffic engineering. My thinking is that we can attribute a good number of road rage explosions to this fuse of frustration.

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Another way cars transform drivers into mere brutes is they severely stunt a human's emotional range. A walking or cycling human receives and responds to a huge amount of sensory information. Much of this richness is lost once a man or woman is in a car, whose dumb body shell considerably impoverishes the amount of information that can reach the senses. And the more one drives, the more their sensory organs, particularly their skin (the body's biggest organ), assumes the character of a car's body shell. The crude commenters on 1176luv's tweet, "A True Hero in Seattle," were really speaking like their cars, which are dumb by nature.

There is another point I want to make concerning the anthropology of a driver (a field of study that needs more researchers, if it has any). Humans are gregarious animals, and our bodies evolved to enhance this mode of species-being. The car, of course, emphasizes the individual (the vision or idea of personal freedom), which is not the dominant mode of the human, but a cultural type of the human family: the rich. The car, then, transmits the value of those who are by their nature a-social to a very wide area of social life. This conflict between being profoundly (meaning, biologically) gregarious but culturally individualistic is bound to be expressed by passions that are sharply or explosively negative.

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