When I first moved to Planet Georgia in March 1983, my first thought upon entering metro Atlanta was, “don’t these people know what traffic cops are?” In college, I watched The Dukes of Hazzard for entertainment… not realizing that people really do drive like that here.
So this morning, me and a few dozen close personal friends (none of whom I’ve met, but anyway) are all cruising down the freeway, when traffic starts knotting up. That’s not unusual. Flip the car out of gear, cover the brake, and erode the generous cushion I’ve given the car ahead of me. About the time I’d used my cushion, the cars ahead started speeding up and the cushion opened up again. I got it in gear, but I must have seen something sub-consciously that made me cautious. I accelerated, but slowly, and let the cushion build up again.
When things start getting thick like that, I try to watch as far ahead as I can — looking through windows, around, over, whatever it takes to get a read on what’s happening. I saw some brake lights again, and got ready: plenty of room in the median (I was in the left lane, passing a transfer truck) and the guy behind me was close but not drafting. This kind of scenario presents itself probably once a week, and usually amounts to nothing.
But our lucky lotto number came up this morning. Brake lights came on several cars ahead, then the guy in front of me hit his brakes hard (judging from the way his back end came up). I put one eye on him and one on the rear-view mirror, hit the brakes, and got ready to dive into the median if necessary. As the situation in front of me started sorting itself out, I saw several cars behind me weave toward the median, then saw a big cloud of steam and all hell broke loose. Two cars went into the median, and a bronze Explorer came up beside me on the right: BACKWARDS, nose to nose with the transfer truck. I bellowed a prayer, moved left, and gassed it — and God saw fit to cut me a break, because I was clear a second later. It really looked like one of those replays from a NASCAR in-car camera; one where the cars going every which way but somehow the driver in the middle of it all manages to get through it unscathed.
About a hundred yards up the road, I pulled into the median and ran back to check on the others who weren’t so lucky. There were four vehicles involved; all the drivers were on their phones or chatting amongst each other. One guy was surveying the tangled mess that was once the front end of his car, shaking his head, and making his phone call. Nobody was hurt at all, thank God, and a guy in scrubs came running across the median from the northbound side to make sure. I offered several of them an “anything I can do?” and got a chorus of “no thanks,” so I figured I should just get back to it. But I’ve smelled the radiator fluid from the smashed-up car, on and off, all day.
I really wanted to be retired by now. :-P