October 18, 2009

Traffic


I was on my way into the city today when I began to notice a line of congestion on the opposite
side of the median, heading back the other way. I congratulated myself for driving in the
direction I was going. But what appeared to be a routine slow-down started to look more ominous as
I neared US 41. Cars were still bumper-to-bumper, and had been inching along, for the entire four
mile stretch.

As I neared the intersection, I could see a traffic cop at the crossroads ahead stopping cars from
turning right, south, in the direction of Coconut Point mall, my destination. He was forcing them
north, or else into a U-turn and back down the road they had just come up. So that was what the
congestion was all about. Still a couple of blocks from the intersection, and thinking I’d
outsmart the traffic, I made a right turn down a side street. I thought I could catch a right-hand
turn on 41 a block or two farther south. Delusion, especially when associated with self-
congratulation, can be comforting.

After a block or two, traffic moving in the opposite direction on the two-lane side street began
to thicken. Then it slowed down in my lane too. As I drew close to the 41 intersection, there was
another traffic cop there. She was turning cars back too.

I pulled into the gas station on the corner, got out of the car, walked to the highway, and looked
south. What I saw was a half-mile of empty interstate and a small city of flashing squad cars
clustered in the distance, their lights shimmering in the wet pavement. A drizzle had begun. I
turned around and joined the conga line back the way I’d already come. I pondered having dawdled
over the camera gear that delayed my departure, and for which I had chastised myself, just an
hour ago.

When I eventually reached US 41 again, I was directed to turn left and a few blocks later pulled
in at a McDonald’s. I noticed a state trooper in his car. I went over and asked him what the mess
on 41 was all about. He told me that there was a pile up. A lot of people got hurt, he said, “a
lot of people.” We chatted a bit. The accident was caused, it seemed, by the usual mix of self-
absorption, impatience, entitlement, and speeding. “I’m not supposed to tell you any of this,”
he said.

I like my truck. It’s given me a license to be pokey. That was unthinkable with my Mustang.
Mustangs aren't allowed to be pokey. It's a state law. But now the pressure is off. People just
drive around me. On the freeway I get in the slow lane, set the cruise to 65, and watch the rat
race burn by while I ease on down, ease on down the road. Which reminds me of a joke my brother
was fond of telling in his youth. Two bulls, a youngster and an oldster, are standing on top of a
hill. They look down to the valley and see a few cows grazing below. The young bull, excited, says
to the old bull “Hey, man, let’s run down there and make love to one of those young heifers. The
old bull looks at him with disdain. “Why don’t we walk down, and make love to all of them.”
Which are my sentiments, if not exactly, appreciably.



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