Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Demolition Derby on the Highways

I drive a lot for work, and I routinely see startling activity by motorists on the highways. For example, just last week on I-84, I observed the following behaviors: eating, brushing crumbs from shirt, drinking coffee, sucking spilled coffee from tie, talking on cell phone, writing notes while on phone call, and singing along with the radio so passionately the driver’s eyes were closed for ten seconds at a time.

And that was just me. Other drivers out there engage in REALLY dangerous behavior.

Oh sure, being distracted while steering a hunk of steel at 70 mph is not the safest thing in the world. But it’s all right when I do it for two reasons: (1) like 99-percent of the population, I’m convinced that I am in the top one-percent of the population when it comes to driving skills and alertness, and (2) just in case my insurance agent is reading this column, I’m only kidding, and I really drive at all times with both hands on the wheel, eyes straight ahead, and the cell phone turned off.

I used to think distracted driving was a big problem on the highways, but now I know the real problem out there is psychotic driving. Some drivers apparently are contestants on a new Reality TV show called, “No One Beats Me!!”

According to the rules of the game, a contestant is eliminated from competition if any car gets to a destination before he does. Therefore, to stay in the running for the grand prize, the contestant must behave like a homicidal maniac whenever an unsuspecting motorist attempts to pass or merge or change lanes.
In a bygone era, if someone’s honor was besmirched, the offending party was challenged to a duel to the death with flintlock pistols. Today, if someone’s honor is besmirched — which occurs when the offending party commits the sin of wanting to merge into traffic and get to a meeting on time — again, it results in a duel to the death. Only nowadays the weapon of choice is not a flintlock pistol, it’s a Ford Explorer. (Although based on some news reports, pistols are still preferred by some motorists. I’m guessing they must be traditionalists.)

Once every few weeks, unfortunately, I have to travel on the Connecticut Turnpike in Fairfield County. This stretch of highway recently received the prestigious designation as a “Historic Perpetual Construction Zone.” The current repair project was begun during the Dwight Eisenhower Administration, and is scheduled to be completed sometime during the Chelsea Clinton Administration in 2039 — unless there are unforeseen delays, such as darkness at night, in which case it will be completed in the year 2439.
On some of the makeshift entrance ramps, I’m forced either to merge quickly into traffic between two fast moving cars, or to smash head-on into a pile of concrete Jersey barriers. Most of the time I chose to merge quickly. But when I do that, it invariably inflames the rage of the motorist directly behind me — obviously a reality TV show contestant — who is then obligated to spend the next 20 miles trying to drive me off the road.

Many people say our roads are filled with bad drivers. But think of it this way: each day over 90-percent of drivers get to where they want to go. And almost half of them get there without significant damage to their cars. Since most of the folks behind the wheel are distracted, over-caffeinated kamikazes, I’d say they must be pretty darn good drivers to achieve such a record.

And if you don’t agree, I challenge you to a duel — Ford Explorers at twenty paces.

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