I work far away from where I live, so on an average week I spend about two hours on the PA Turnpike. Well, unless there’s an accident – then that number can rise very quickly.
I sometimes refer to it as running the daily gauntlet or spinning the roulette wheel with my life, and what happened there yesterday is an excellent example of why the trek deserves such names.
It was a pretty normal early commute with the traffic waxing and waning between heavy and normal, but at least we were all still moving instead of parking there as can happen at times.
In the center lane I was going between sixty and seventy MPH and had come up behind the person in front of me, so I put on my turn signal to indicate a shift to the high speed lane and checked my side mirror for occupants before taking a quick look over my left shoulder at the blind spot. There was someone back there, but they were a good distance behind me – so I moved left into the lane.
Immediately the person behind who I belatedly realized was approaching at breakneck pace (if I was going nearly seventy they had to be moving at about ninety MPH) started wildly flashing their high beams at me. When another driver does this I tend to assume they’re trying to warn me of something, like maybe my car being on fire – so now I’m glancing around in concern and have effectively been turned into a distracted driver at almost seventy MPH.
All I noticed though was that the high beam flasher had positioned themselves about half a foot from my rear bumper, and it finally dawned on me that all the flashing was just impotent rage at my having the audacity to use their driving lane to, you know, pass people – which the last time I checked was its purpose. Since we were both now passing the person in the middle lane I had been intending to, the flasher was stuck behind me at a maddeningly slow 70MPH for a full horrifying twenty seconds or so. The stress of this apparently broke their already tenuous hold on sanity.
As we passed the individual in the center lane I put on my turn signal again to indicate I was now going to move back over to the right, but as soon as I did so – the frothing lunatic on my bumper executed one of those passing maneuvers where they practically graze your back bumper, then the right side of your car, then your front bumper as they cut back in front of you about a hairsbreadth from making contact. As he was doing this I saw him wildly giving me the finger with both hands. Unless he had very unique anatomy you can figure out how many he was actually holding the wheel with at that time.
Ironically the traffic around us immediately slowed down after this, so for the next four or five miles I was stuck directly behind this guy as we crawled along. I hope the twenty feet in front of me he managed to earn by risking both our lives helped him to endure the crushing slowness.
As things eventually freed up, off he zoomed again at illegal speeds, weaving in and out and between lanes like he was playing a video game rather than endangering the lives of real people, including his own – none of whom he seemed to have even the slightest respect or concern for.
That area of the turnpike is heavily monitored by police officers for speeding and I kept a hopeful eye toward the right side of the road for the rest of my journey, wanting to see him pulled over and getting heavily fined, or better yet arrested.
Alas, for that day he lucked out – both in avoiding a ticket and avoiding taking any lives.
We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.