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This is his explanation. He's actually helping fellow drivers by driving slowly, thus preventing them from driving fast.

By Novella Carpenter

IT'S AN ARGUMENT we always get into. We're driving down the interstate; he's got the steering wheel in his hands, but I'm actually driving, too. (You know what I mean, right?) Anyway, for some insane reason, he's in the far left lane driving, oh, I don't know, maybe 45 miles per hour. People are passing us (on the right--what choice do they have?); some are flipping us off; others have rolled down their windows to make sure that they are actually seeing someone drive 45 miles per on 880 in the far left lane for no other reason than, drum roll please: "Everyone drives too fast here."

This is his explanation. He's actually helping fellow drivers by driving slowly, thus preventing them from driving fast. It doesn't matter that what he's doing isn't safe and that it's embarrassing; his Teflon argument is that this is an issue of public safety! Don't I understand? He is protecting the citizens of the cities from the wicked, wicked fast drivers. "Did you see that pothole?" he asks, ignoring the person flashing his brights behind us. "If you hit that at 70, you'd crash." He is faster than a speeding mosquito, stronger than a toy train set and able to leap potholes in two or three bounds ... he's Super Slowman.

I love playing the superhero-creating game. I used to knit a lot, and so I dubbed myself Super Knit-tor. My superpower would be that I could knit really fast and put a really ugly sweater on my enemy! Ha! Ha! But this got me to thinking. There is a whole fleet of drivers out there who are, in fact, superheroes.

The Stopper. Merging onto a lane? Well, the stopper will stop for you! Ignoring entirely the flow of traffic, he is undaunted and prepares to get rear-ended. Of course, you never know when you'll encounter the Stopper, so you almost crash into someone else trying to get around him.

Superpower: Excessive kindness to others. Mortal Enemy: Truckers. Literally, they will run over the Stopper, crushing him. Mascot: Basset Hound. Car: Chevy Suburban

Dr. Weaver. Nonmotion is Dr. Weaver's enemy. He cannot let his car come to a stop or even stay in the same lane for longer than five minutes. Strangely, Dr. Weaver never really gets anywhere sooner than anyone else, but his front end needs help sooner than the other superheroes.

Superpower: Overdeveloped blinker flicking left hand. Mortal Enemy: Those who don't use their signal lights. Slogan: "Beat you! By, let's see ... three seconds." Car: Acura

Wonder Smallcar Woman. She only drives small, cute expensive modes of transport--a Mini Cooper, an Italian scooter--with the hopes that she can save the environment but still look good doing so.

Superpower: Parallel parking. Mortal Enemy: SUVs. Mascot: Tiny white Pomeranian. Car: Smart Car

She Multitasker. She needs to do it all--apply lipstick, eat the bowl of pasta, crimp her hair, chat on the phone, check email, open, consult and read maps, file nails, have sex--while driving. She's neurotic, she's hyperactive, she's She Multitasker.

Superpower: Eight arms. Mortal Enemy: Losing her date book. Car: Subaru Justy

Oh, I could do this for hours, but then I randomly found a superhero generator on the web (um, I'm a really busy person), and I got these results on my first try:

Wombat Nova (Wombat-Nova, Wombatnova, Nova Wombat, Nova-Wombat, Novawombat). Hypnosis, Extradimensional.

Superpower(s): Curse. Weapon: Light Shotgun. Transportation: Wild Bike

I didn't type anything in about myself. Did you know my nickname is Nova and that I ride a wild bicycle? Also, though I'm not usually interested in firearms, I once coveted a mini-rhinestone-encrusted shotgun that hung around a truck-stop waitress's neck. All of these are coincidences? Probably.

Just in case you want to check out what kind of superhero you might be, go to Lee's (Useless) Super-Hero Generator at: http:// home.hiwaay.net/~lkseitz/comics/herogen/.

Novella Carpenter is a veteran of the road trip, having circled the United States three times.

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From the March 30-April 6, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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