Traveler Alert: Cellular Phones on the Highway of Death
Traveler Alert: Cellular Phones on the Highway of Death
by LF (9/97)
Okay, so I'm driving up to my sister's place in Wake Forest, taking the only fairly-sane
route up Falls of the Neuse, cradling a foam latex-wrapped PBR in my lap while trying to
come up with interesting lines to use on the new software engineer from China hired on
at my place of work, struggling to channel my filthy lust into acceptable single-syllable
words (the broad could body-double for
Michelle Yeoh, hence the extra effort). Anyway, I was attempting to keep up with this
Mahogany-American that I'd picked up on back at the Hannaford by my apartment, who was
tear-assing through traffic like a Congressional page pursued by the delegation from
Massachusetts. He was driving a big white mid-70's Mercedes, and apparently intimately
knew the length of his car to the half-foot. My kinda guy.
After Falls went from three lanes almost immediately down to one, I was
trapped behind a Nissan Sentra driven by some scab engaged in an animated conversation on
his cell phone. He was occasionally gesturing wildly with his available (steering) hand,
so I dropped back a bit, waiting for one of the few short stretches of striped yellow
line. We ran around a big turn, and there was my buddy, flashing his intention to turn
left into a new development built next to a huge horse farm. No problem, since the
right-hand side of the road widened out to permit the bypassing of stopped vehicles, a
necessity thanks to the large number of tractors and the like that still travel there. But
the pig-humper in the Sentra did not notice what was going on many football fields ahead
of him, and instead locked up his brakes at the last moment and skidded to within a few
feet of the Mercedes, jagging right so that the pass-around was blocked. I was forced
to waste a little bit of valuable tread-life myself, and joined him in looking like an
asshole. When he started off again I did not see the phone in his hand, so he probably
dropped the damned thing.
Now, I swear that North Carolina has got to be one of the worst places to drive that I
have ever experienced. Cleveland and Detroit have their share of brutal intersections
purpose-built to get you killed. New York City and Boston are the stuff of legend, and
Paramus, New Jersey, has not gotten the recognition it deserves (there seems to be
some sort of interchange every 150 yards). But at least most of the folks in those
towns can primarily be faulted for trying to get to their destinations in an insane hurry.
A laudable goal, compared to the alternative.
This is the home of the rolling roadblock. My tormentor on the portable phone was
only the newest addition to a sordid cast of infuriating characters:
- I can't tell you the number of times that I've seen people here on-ramp onto a major
highway and then drift lackadaisically into the fast lane, even if there's no one in the
slow lane ahead of them, completely heedless of vehicles that have the right-of-way.
We need way more of those "Slower Traffic Keep Right" signs on our roads, if only to help
the State Troopers stuck investigating high-speed ass-enders figure out who actually
deserves to get charged.
- Then there's the forgetful. These cretins chug along in the far left lane on a chunk
of superhighway until remembering at the last possible moment that oh yeah!, their
exit is only a few seconds away. So they try a four-lane sweep at the last possible moment.
At three in the morning this is normally a safe maneuver. In rush hour traffic it is
literally murderous. I can usually make it to work in just under twenty minutes, but about
twice a month it runs closer to an hour because I have to wait for emergency vehicles to
clean up after a slanted T-Bone at a particularly popular junction point.
- Logjams consisting of four cars driving
side-by-side-by-side-by-side are also real big in the Opie State. There may not be
another car for miles ahead of the herd, but since shifting position would mean speeding up
or slowing down slightly, it takes a bit of coaxing to get one of the cattle to break formation.
- The local equivalent of slicing off the hands of thieves is the alcohol checkpoint.
Those with survival sense and good peripheral vision soon learn to recognize what a blue
flash off a second-story window probably means while driving home from a night of stool-diving
(and the nicer ones will head back uptown to spread the word). Seatbelt checkpoints are even
more egregious, since only the lamest monkey would forget to buckle up while waiting their turn
with the law-enforcement types. I guess that's why for every non-belted dope that gets caught,
fifty others get fined for a burnt-out taillight or having an expired registration. Hmmm.
- I've seen FOUR drivers get pulled over for blocking a Trooper in the fast lane.
I've had various run-ins with a number of cops, but no Staties (or Sheriff's Deputies, for
that matter) have ever seen fit to mess up my day without good reason. The difference is
in the nature of their jobs, I guess. Just move the hell over, and let them do their thing!
- The Governor's brother must own the orange barrel concession. I used to get pissed off
at the layabouts who supposedly performed construction work back in Ohio, but at least the
bums were forced to finally get their rumps in gear when the snow threatened to start flying.
The weather is nice enough here that nothing ever has to get done. There might not be a
single piece of actual equipment nor a soul in an orange vest in sight, but speed in a "work
area," and you'll get tagged for an extra fine on top of having no chance to talk down the
initial offense -- so the common assumption is that the meager
collection of props scattered hither and yon are just State and Local revenue enhancers.
- Apparently some turd in the State Legislature figgered it would be nice 'n' safe for
schoolkids to be used as road hazards, so by law both the long and short yellow
buses snarl highway traffic at something under fifty miles per hour (I've been here for seven
years now, but I've never had the patience to actually clock one -- they could be going thirty-five
for all I know). Like I need to see the faces of the illiterate little sonsawhores.
What's makes this situation even more infuriating is that this is the land of NASCAR, where
"King" Richard Petty makes his home. Speaking of the retired hot-rodder, some of you may
remember that he lost his '96 bid for State Treasurer at least in part because shortly
before the election he bumped some douchebag civilian that was blocking him in the fast
portion of a four-lane. That news guaranteed him my vote. Hell, I would've voted for him
twice if he'd clipped off the bastard's rear-view mirror with a 12-gauge deer slug.
Up the spout