Blood on the Highway

I’m strongly considering retitling this blog to something like Blood on the Highway, as it seems that most of my recent adventures have all been centered around my favorite chore:  Driving.

In the near-month since my last post (I’ve been busier than usual), I have nearly been hit at least four times, nearly hit someone twice, and have been the passenger in near disastrous travel more times than I can now count.  I don’t know what that’s all about, to be honest.  I’m allegedly a safe driver – at least according to my insurance carrier – yet I can’t help but think that I’m living a real-life Final Destination scenario where both Death and Injury are giggling once I start walking towards an automobile.

Perhaps the weirdest travel story I have for you is the incident that occurred as I was trying to turn right while at a stoplight.  Let me set the stage:  This is a six lane road, with three lanes pointed north, and three pointed south; I’m in the furthest-right northbound lane.

I am behind Red SUV, so named because the guy is driving . . . a red SUV.  I suppose that I could call him, “Benvolio,” or something melodramatic like that to make the story interesting, but – whatever; this works.  Red SUV is directly in front of me, with maybe a full car-length of space between us.  While the posted speed limit is 40 MPH, Red SUV is going about 30, presumably because he intends to turn at the corner.  This is great, because that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Then there’s White Sedan, aptly named as the driver . . . you get the picture.  While I’m using the male pronouns here, I didn’t see either individual well enough to identify them beyond saying that they had light or fair complexions, and what appeared to be dark colored hair.  White Sedan is in the center lane.

Having identified the players, our tale thus begins:

Red SUV is driving well below the posted speed limit as he approached a four-way intersection with stoplights.  He stops, however, a good three car lengths away from the curb.  There is no posted prohibition against turning on red, so the gap in front of him (it’s big enough that I can see it, despite being behind him), is puzzling.  Here’s where White Sedan makes his entrance.  Noticing the rather lengthy gap, White Sedan quickly flicks on his right-turn signal, and moves right in front of Red SUV.  Despite the fact that he had not moved so much as one inch since coming to a complete stop, Red SUV is furious, and leans on his horn.

For a ridiculously long time.

White Sedan was at the head of the line for maybe all of ten seconds when he quickly turned the corner.  Despite being gone, Red SUV’s hands are still on the horn.  For a brief minute I wondered if this was directed at me, rather than White Sedan, but I’m behind him making a traffic stop, so I can’t imagine what I might have done that would have set him off.  Red SUV turns the corner, and after a stop and confirmation that there was no oncoming traffic, I quickly follow.

This road is only four lanes, and runs diagonally northeast/southwest.  Once around the corner, I move over to the left-hand lane.  Red SUV, who is now parallel to me in the right-hand lane, has only just released his horn.  I know that I looked in his direction, but I didn’t see much of anything beyond the slight tint.  I do know he was wearing a plaid shirt.  It took a minute before I realized that Red SUV was apparently trying to speed past me.  From the sound of his engine, he must have had the accelerator flat on the floor of his cabin, too.  So much noise, yet he wasn’t going anywhere.

I sped up, but for a different reason.  The road has a slight incline to it, so for me to actually “move forward,” rather than backwards, I have to give the car some gas.  Once I cleared the top of the incline, I’d planned to ease back on the accelerator, as I’d done hundreds of times before.  Red SUV, however, took my desire to not roll back down the incline as some sort of threat – he gunned his engine even harder.  In the space of a mile, it became clear to me that he thought one of two things:  First, that I was trying to race him (I was not), or second, that I was trying to maneuver to cut in front of him (another wrong answer).  Worse, he shot a few hurried glances my way to make sure that I knew he wasn’t going to lose this . . . whatever this was.

I’ve only had that happen to me one other time – over fifteen years ago, in fact – while driving on the Interstate in heavy traffic.  I was in the center lane and needed to get around a truck, yet the guy in the left refused to allow me passage.  He’d speed up to block – but not pass – me each time I hit my signal, yet when I cancelled the signal, he’d slow down.  Apparently, he’d judged me unworthy of entering “his” lane, and he was determined to keep me out.

But as soon as the car in front of him switched lanes – thus leaving a gap in the left lane for several vehicles, I made my move.  Left Lane Man (named because he . . . ugh) flashed a panicked stare, and I knew that he was going to try to block me yet again.  Except this time, he made a mistake – and I knew exactly what he did:  He floored the accelerator.

The worst thing that you can do if you’re trying to speed up as Left Lane Man was, is to floor your accelerator.  You won’t speed up; you’ll actually slow down.  It takes the car a moment or two to respond to the sudden request for speed, and the end result is that you’ll actually lose speed instead of gaining it.  When Left Lane Man pushed that accelerator to the floor, he immediately dropped a good ten miles off of his speed, and that gave me more than enough time and space to slide over in front of him.  I could see him frantically waving and shouting behind me, but the important thing was that he was now behind me.  As long as he didn’t try to ram the rear of my vehicle, I couldn’t have cared less about what he was doing back there.  I got to work safe and sound, although I couldn’t help being a bit of an ass along the way:  Safely nestled in my space, I dropped to the posted speed, rather than driving ten over; the fact that Left Lane Man was stuck behind me and thus forced to wait through that was very satisfying indeed.

So when Red SUV pulled this stunt, I immediately thought of Left Lane Man, and chuckled as he went barreling down the road.  He almost missed his turn – an on-ramp for the Interstate, no less – and risked an accident (or worse), all because he thought he was denying me the chance to pass him by.

Sometimes I just don’t get people.

In other news, I came down on my leg incorrectly – how I managed this, I still don’t quite understand – and in the process injured my knee.  In truth, it felt as though my knee wanted to bend in the opposite direction – a situation that has totally blown what little bit of mind I have left – and has left me somewhat afraid that there’s something wrong.  Right now, it’s just swollen and tight, but the earliest I can try to negotiate a physician’s visit is Tuesday.  Worse, I spend most of my workday standing and pacing, so I’m petrified that my knee is going to give way during class and that something . . . awful . . . will happen.

Where are these irrational fears coming from?  I never used to be like this.  In fact, I’m stunned at some of the things I’ve done, because there’s no way I’d try some of that stuff today.

Is this what getting older has gotten me?  Half-afraid to even wake up in the morning?  There’s so much anxiety in my world, right now, and I have absolutely no idea as to how I should deal with it.


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