Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Story 28: Life in the Slow Lane

            Traffic, that cursรจd organism with a mind of its own, literally inches forward in the daily parkway ritual of lane closures, accidents with their inevitable offspring of rubbernecking, backed-up exits, backed-up entrances, and nowhere else for the imprisoned participants to turn.  In short: Hell on Earth.
            The regulars know their parts and resignedly play them.  The most intricate of the routine is the maneuver dubbed “The Waltz of the Sedans” which, when properly executed, is a thing of beauty.  It involves two or more vehicles simultaneously swapping lanes, akin to synchronized swimming and producing much the same awe to any observer who can steal a glance.  Those who stumble in this pas de automobile wipe out spectacularly and earn the sudden horror and subsequent wrath of their fellow travelers, followed by pity when the tragic results are seen.  The ones caught in the wake hours later settle for wrath because it’s easier.
            The amateurs – the out-of-staters, the vacationers, the student drivers, and the fools who just do not know any better – invariably either drive at the speed limit (aka the suggested starting speed) in the far left lane, or never know when or where their exit will show up.  The regulars do their best to go around and beyond them, but one sap always will be trapped behind an amateur trundling along with its right blinker on for the past five exits, hoping the next will be “the one”.
            Rush hour usually is rush day, except between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. every other Sunday.  If you are lucky, the DUIs race past you with only your car rocking in the slipstream as evidence of your narrow escape.  The state trooper not far behind is planning the next phase of his career: race car driving, with its dangers of crashing and burning making it the infinitely safer life option.
            To avoid this horrible, convenient roadway, it is best to memorize the myriad backroads to your destination.  The journey will be just as long if not longer, but the advantages are that you will be in motion the entire time rather than idling; you pay for just gas rather than gas and tolls; and the scenery is better.  A few of the downsides include traffic lights and the pedestrians who step into the road just as you approach because they want you to hit them.  They are a wily bunch, tripping you up by crossing against lights, walking in non-people-designated areas, and appearing out of thin air as your car is in mid-turn.  Don’t let them succeed in their suicidal goal: stop short, blast your weak horn, shake your fist mightily, and shout a blessing that they have long lives in spite of their self-destructive tendencies.
            To avoid this nice, inconvenient roadway, take the parkway.  Yes, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but sometimes one must just endure it.