Driving the Adirondack Northway in a snow event, you didn’t just have to deal with the elements, you had to deal with other drivers.
Some people, mostly from downstate, couldn’t understand why they had to change their driving style just because of treacherous road conditions. They would zoom past you at 70, at least until you saw them stuck in a drainage ditch, their car having slid out of control.
Others, though, were even worse. They felt the slipping so they slowed right down, often to 20 or 25 miles an hour. Soon, long lines of cars would back up behind them, all in a desperate struggle where just one person losing focus and control could create a horrible pile up.
The people I felt safest with were other other North Country denizens who understood the way to drive. They both kept up a reasonable speed, 45 mph or so, enough to have inertia to correct slippage, and kept long distances between cars, room to make adjustments, even in a slip.
These were people who knew that braking in a turn was a key to disaster, unleashing forces that will put you right out of control, knew that the line between over control and under control needed space and grace to make things right.
Those people who considered themselves safe drivers because they went so slowly just couldn’t understand that often, running a system too slowly isn’t just inefficient, it is often downright dangerous. We need momentum, need a load, need power just to keep things running smoothly and effectively.
Sometimes, when you run the system without sufficient load, trying to attenuate it, throttling it down to fit in with other systems, things can get out of control quickly. Somewhere between slow & steady and speedy & loose lies an optimum range that keeps us focused, engaged and ready to handle change. It keeps us on-track, relaxed and disciplined.
Any operating engineer will tell you that running a system is always a matter of making trade offs. Too high or too low, too hot or too cold, too fast or too slow each has a price to pay.
As a human, we are the operator of our own internal system. We have to make our own trade offs. find the best pace and program to be happy and effective in the world.
It may not surprise you to know that I have found that my own mind works best when it runs hot. When I have to attenuate myself, dropping the core temperature, reducing the rotations and dialing down the voltage so as to not overdrive the people around me, there is a big cost to my own operations. My maintenance schedule goes way up and my efficiency drops through the floor.
For those of us whose nature tends to run a little bigger than the normative crowd, finding a good operating style can be a real challenge. We need to both true to our nature, acknowledging our wild side, and need to fit in well with the people around us, being tame enough to get what we need.
Trying to squeeze into that tight range of operating parameters is hard, hard for us.
We slow down, attenuate ourselves as much as possible, but it never seems to be enough for those who still get upset when they see flashes of our energy.
Running with a big governor to limit our systems costs us, leaving buildups of heat and sludge that just keep dragging us down.
It’s hard to be a bit eccentric, a bit intense and still have people see that you are just another system with your own emotional truth and your own human needs. People tend to write you off, either as someone beyond them or as a crackpot who doesn’t want to fit in. They decide that you deserve what you get for not marching in lockstep like they know how to do.
We don’t want to lose our interconnect with the people around us. We know we need what they have, need to share. We are interdependent with them, part of the same community.
But we can’t just slow down either. We know our operating parameters, know the beat of our own different drum, and know that if we don’t run strong enough we will never have the momentum to control our own power in good ways.
Firing on one cylinder may keep us small, but it will never be as good as firing on all six.
Oscillating between connection and performance creates harmonics that drain us, vibrations that lead to stress and eventual fractures. Like a top that loses momentum, we wobble and crash rather than being able to feed back into motion that can deliver energy cleanly back into the system.
Our high voltage can be compelling, attractive and empowering to others. They are drawn to our heat, to our light.
Give them a while, though, and they can find us wearing, start wondering when we switch down, become conventional. When we don’t do that, well, they find ways to drift off, to move on.
The problem is that when we reduce ourselves to be easy to connect with, the underlying current is always there.
Driving under stress on the Northway would have been easy if the road weren’t full of other drivers.
The secret of effective operation, though, is not to be overly concerned with oter drivers but to know your own power profile, managing your own system to make the best out of what you have.
When you are too concerned about others, you can end up being distracted by them, wondering if you are doing the right thing. Should you be stepping on the gas or should you be braking hard? What would be the best choice and how can you avoid doing the wrong thing?
The worst thing we can do to the system is to drive it in bursts, trying to pull it this way and that rather than finding the sweet spot and trusting it. Too much speed up and slow down, acceleration and resistance is always inefficient and costly.
Those drivers I trusted on the snowy highway knew that. They made room for their possibility and room for their mistakes, knowing that operating in the zone of effectiveness made life safer for them and for those around them. This may have been a tough lesson to learn, but it made them good drivers and good neighbours.
Being too scared and skittish is dangerous, as is being too ignorant and arrogant.
Finding the place where you can achieve balanced operation of your own system puts you in control of your own life.