On the Road: Gen Y Is Hell on Wheels

I noticed a few things about people during Spring Break simply from watching them drive. The most revealing behavior occurs when signage announces the approaching closure of one lane. You’d think that most people would collect in the right lane if the left is soon to be shut off… and I guess most do. Then you have the ten percent or so who race along the almost-empty lane to cut in front of twenty or fifty or however many cars they can. They’re the ones who back up traffic and sometimes bring it to a halt, either because some fool farther along pauses to let them in or else because they dangerously prod their way to a place in the file. These motorists are almost always younger people driving pricey SUV’s, sports cars, extended-cab mega-pickups, and the like: soccer moms, executives-in-waiting, and good ol’ boys in becoming.

They belong to the “me first” generation that’s now nearing thirty. They’re more important than we are: to themselves, they’re more important than anyone.

The same group will often speed up in the right lane when you’re trying to pass them. It’s instinctive, I’m convinced. When they sense that they are about to “fall behind” someone, Mother Nature kicks in and they throw out a foot to trip up the competitor. Why this would happen when all of their vehicles are equipped with cruise control can have only one explanation: they override the setting—instinct trumps technology.

Then again, maybe they like to have their foot on the gas at all times, regardless of convenient technology that allows older legs to relax. It’s their car, and they’re going to give it commands second by second. How else to explain such behavior as surging past you on the right, cutting in front of you, and then sitting beside a tractor-trailer a while so that no one can pass? What’s that about? Obviously, cruise control is again not engaged—but simply pumping the accelerator doesn’t seem to be enough, either. The driver has to cause frustration to those behind him: he has to feel it and feed upon it. Now he’s in control of other human beings on the road.

I seem to see these people all the time on HGTV shows where a young couple is shopping around for a fixer-upper. They have a budget of 800 grand within which they will try (and fail) to stay. He wants a basement for his “man cave”. She wants an “open concept” kitchen that pours itself into the den (or “entertainment room”). He wants a Jacuzzi on the deck. She wants a garden tub in the master bathroom. He wants hardwood floors upstairs. She wants a walk-in closet with an outlet for a TV and a window onto the back yard. They want, they want, they want… it’s simply mind-numbing to hear these regal brats ramble off all the “must haves” on their Christmas list.

When did younger Americans become such people, and why? That’s a question for another day, or for many other days. I sure wish the whole generation would go float away on an enchanted island to another century far from mine.