Highway hypnosis

Highway hypnosis. It’s the strange sensation that can happen when one is on the road. However, I have found, in my life, three variants on highway hypnosis, even though only one of them really deals with the highway. Play along here…

Highway hypnosis has a few different definitions. The most common one is the idea of driving along on a highway for a long distance, and sub-consciously driving safely, but consciously not recalling the experience.

The way that my Dad described it, however, was the change in mindset and apparent speed when exiting from a highway onto a slower-speed road. He brought it up one time when we were driving on Interstate 80 toward Lincoln (speed limit 75 mph), and exited toward Highway 6 (speed limit 55 mph, including a stop light at the bottom of the ramp). I noticed that the car seemed to be going more slowly than 55 mph (I was a passenger), and Dad described it as a highway-hypnosis experience.

Recently, I’ve experienced highway hypnosis in reverse on bike a few times. One example: even if my speedometer shows that I’m traveling a certain speed in a neighborhood versus an arterial road (or highway), I feel that I am riding faster on the latter. This may be a kick of adrenaline because of the larger amount of clear-and-present danger when the vehicles are moving more quickly that cause me to actually speed up, or it may be my mind playing tricks on me!

Similarly, I was riding my bike with my friend Elisheva four weeks ago (wow, time is flying!). During the day, we rode at a leisurely pace (averaging about 10 mph), since we had all the time in the world that day. At the end of the day (literally, not just as an expression), we rode back. The ride was slightly uphill, but the skies were dark. Even though our average speed was roughly still 10 mph, the darkness made it feel like we were going faster.

So, if I really want to feel like I am flying, I should ride on arterial roads or highways at night.

And one more type of highway hypnosis… which is a misnomer since it’s nothing about a highway! In 2001, my family took a cruise in January. For a few days after we got back to Lincoln, my mind played tricks on me and made me feel like I was still  on the ship. That is, the floor seemed to be moving even though it wasn’t.

(Well, technically it was moving, but in an epsilonic sense due to the Earth’s rotation, instead of the delta-sense due to the sea’s motion. Close enough, okay?)

Are there other situations where speed or motion tends to trick you? Let me know!


Columbus: 8 days.

Twenty-Nine: 11 days.

Kenosha: 38 days.

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