Some might call it paranoia but I have an inherent distrust of human beings. Under the very best of conditions, I distrust the intentions of strangers, and in traffic I just assume any vehicle in the same area code as I is being piloted by a Nazi who is texting and masturbating simultaneously while being attacked by a giant squid with rabies. I’m always the first to start edging away from weirdness on the road. If I get killed I want the tire tracks on my back.
Most drivers see highway workers as those people who are interfering with the traffic flow and to a degree that is accurate. I have a very simple example for you to use if you would like a comparison; imagine trying to live in a house while it’s being built. You would discover the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, and the bricklayers would all be a terrible inconvenience to you and your family during your day-to-day routine. Welcome to transportation construction.
I chose to do bridge work because when a bridge is being built you don’t have nearly the weirdness. Yeah, I have had people pull up on a bridge that is half done and them ask if it’s open. Because I’m on the public’s payroll I make great effort not to be a smartass about such. I’ve seen a few people try to go around a bridge. Now, I’ve been a part of building a couple of dozen bridges. Generally speaking, we either build the new bridge next to the old bridge, or we build a detour bridge next to the old one before we tear it down and build the new one. At least twice I’ve build a bridge were the old one was demolished, or traffic was detoured, and at least twice that I can recall, someone tried to go around us, as if the bridge not being there negated the need for a bridge being there. Of course the guy got stuck, and equally of course he wanted us to help him, but because he was such a butt about it the contractor instead called the law, and they called a wrecker.
Out on the open road you’ve got to work with your head on a swivel because there are X amount of people out there drunk while driving. Then there are Y amount of people texting. The there are Z amount of people who are reading the New York Times while they drive. Then there are W amount of people breast feeding three kids at once while smoking crack while driving. Then there are X,Y,Z and W amount of people out there drunk, texting, smoking crack, reading the New York Times, smoking crack while breast feeding three babies at once. These usually have their own reality television shows, but you simply cannot tell.
In good truth, even the very best drivers make mistakes. Someone who is driving the speed limit, has their cell turned off, isn’t drunk, stoned, or stupid, can still get distracted by something on the roadside, a woman flashingfrom a passing car, or visions of god, but the last two are strikingly similar. It really doesn’t matter. You are just as dead if you get hit by someone sober and driving safe, but accidently hit you, as you are if the freak show came in on you.
Being killed in traffic is bad enough, but at least it’s over. I handed a sock to an EMT once that still had a foot in it. They were going to try to reattach it, but the foot was hamburger. The former owner of the foot was dodging in and out of traffic on a motorcycle and a dump truck pulled out in front of him. He had to lay it down, and he slid under the truck, bounced off the inside driver’s side tire, and ricocheted fifty feet. His front teeth were ground down a half inch, his right leg was broken with the bone sticking out, and his foot was gone.
Back in 2003 a woman died of a heart attack while driving and flipped her car and rammed another vehicle. Her grandson survived but he was there with her until the ambulance got there. I’ve always wondered how he survived that and stayed sane.
It does occur to me I’ve got a gracious plenty traffic stories. All of them involve people who were, seconds before the wreck, likely not thinking of having a wreck at all. They wound up just as dead, or mangled, or traumatized anyway. I try not to forget I’m a target, and I try not to forget other people are too, when I’m driving.
Will you remember this for me?