I was passing a car on a 2-lane freeway a couple days ago. The driver I was passing had demonstrated very quickly in our brief time together that it was either idiotic or perhaps simply clueless. Which is really not a big deal: pitifully few drivers on American roads are anything approaching what I would call “competent” behind the wheel. So, no biggie…I just don’t want to be stuck behind such a person for the next 20 miles when there is no one else visible in front of us on the road ahead. IAmyway, in the not-too-distant distance I saw a rather massive semi truck barreling in my direction at a pretty decent pace. I had plenty of distance and time to pass the car in front of me.
So I did. At least I started to. The idiot that I was passing suddenly started accelerating. It was as if it had, upon seeing me suddenly passing her on the left, realized that it had been dragging ass with its right-turn indicator erroneously left blinking, and stomped on the gas to correct its previously unacceptable performance, giving no thought that I was trying to pass it and had made the decision to do so based on calculations that did not it including accelerating at the same rate as me. Dammit.
I think it should go without saying that there was an exactly zero chance of me aborting this operation at this point. The truck was close enough now that I could tell that is was a massive Peterbilt with a grill that is built such that the driver can simply rinse things like me off of it and be none the worse for wear. I glanced quickly at the speedometer: 105 mph.
And in that moment, my only thought was. “I should be feeling fear.” I felt nothing except a pretty significant annoyance at the idiot in the car next to me and a mild curiosity about what was about to happen with regard to my imminent vaporization. I mean, I knew what was going to happen did not include an accident or anybody being vaporized, but at that moment I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out that way. Still, there was no actual fear. Since I was alone in the car, there was no one around to pretend to be afraid for, so I didn’t. Which choice was suddenly infinitely more interesting that the outcome of the oncoming traffic situation: I don’t actually feel fear very much. If at all. Not that kind of fear, anyway. I admittedly spend a lot of time wrestling with a simply vicious, creeping, generalized, existential dread. But when it comes to street fights or prison riots or those sorts of goings-on…nothing. I get incredibly focused and hyper-vigilant, but no actual fear. It’s been pointed out to me many rather awkward times that I have no real startle reflex either: gunshots and explosions don’t really move my needle. But in those moments that I’m not feeling something i know I’m supposed to feel, I am aware that I’m not feeling something I know I’m supposed to feel and it’s as if there is an “Insert Emotion Here” sign in my psyche, and my mind has becoming unbelievably adept at instantaneously synthesizing something approximating what it thinks is the appropriate emotional response and implements it. But I don’t actually feel the emotion itself.
It is not only with fear that this happens.
This is what the book is about.
N.P.: “Spoiler” – Hyper