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I’m a chronic obeyer of one road rule. Not only one rule, but especially this one rule. I drive in the right lane always—unless passing.

It bothers me when people drive casually, carefree, talking on their phone with no hands on the wheel, in the left lane. That’s not what the left lane is for, in my understanding. The right lane is for all of that. For eating burgers, dripping grease and ketchup and those little onions that look like rice into your lap. For texting your friends paragraph messages and roaming onto the rumble strips and back onto the road. For creating a playlist for your drive during your drive instead of before.

The left lane is only for your temporary occupancy, while passing. Then right back to the right lane, where you belong.

During a long drive East from Michigan, five states in one sun-up, sun-down day, I came across a crucial exception to my hard-and-fast rule about the left lane. Somewhere along I-80, in Pennsylvania, after Youngstown but before Wilkes-barre, I was driving in the right lane, as per usual. My car was being adulterated by the condition of the road.  My tires were screaming for smooth, the cushion in my axles was giving me all it had but still the vibration in my thighs was making my legs itch. I was miles from another car—before or behind—so I [gasp!] shifted to the left lane and drove comfortably, without regret.

This new exception with go to the jury for approval: potholes.