Autumn 1984, Washington DC – It was the best of times, it was the worst of traffic. In September of 1984, The Washington Post published a story about a horrendous Beltway accident. Though numerous letters were published in response to the story, one letter launched a discussion that continued for months, nay, years. In the October 1, 1984 edition, Dr. John O. Nestor, described his driving habits.
On divided highways I drive in the left lane with my cruise control set at the speed limit of 55 miles per hour because it is usually the smoothest lane. I avoid slower traffic coming in and out from the right, and I avoid resetting the cruise control with every lane change.
Why should I inconvenience myself for someone who wants to speed?
With those sixty-three words, Dr. Nestor set off a heated discussion over driving etiquette the likes of which presaged the aggressive driving epidemic which seems to have become the norm.
Dr. Nestor justified his strategy in early November. “It became obvious that the police couldn’t or wouldn’t control speeders,” he says, and “I feel it’s up to the public to protect themselves.” Perhaps it was his final thought on the subject that kept the discussion alive. “The American public are like sheep.”
The doctor’s left-lane strategy was referred to as “Nestoring”and for a few months dominated cocktail parties where there was no middle-lane. Yea or Nay. Though Dr. Nestor passed away in 1999, his verb lives on. In a 2013 Los Angeles Times article on gun-control, Jonah Goldberg describes the verb as “an absolute adherence to the rules, regardless of the larger consequences.”
The verb appears in the Wikipedia entry for the doctor as well, so I guess that ensures a level of immortality many only dream of. Perhaps that’s the best lesson to take from Dr. Nestor’s life choices. Stick to your principles, right or wrong, and you too may become an obscure verb. Just do me a favor and don’t do it in the left lane.
This is a guest post by Jason Baum.