Monday, February 25, 2008

Bumper Cars, or (Tell Me Why) I Don’t Like Mondays

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

10 comments:

  1. Ok Far, that is what collapse could look like...... Thankfully you made it! And what a nice guy to check on those not so lucky! You're a good man, Far.

    Thanks, yooper

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  2. Dang! I am sure the backwards car was a bit unsettling to see! Thank heavens you were spared from the bumper cars and that no one was hurt.

    Mondays can really suck.

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  3. Yikes FAR!

    Sounds like an adrenaline pumper for sure ... :O

    I'm glad you were okay -- and that the others weren't hurt!

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  4. Hi FAR.

    Thank goodness you and the rest of the crew weren't hurt. I think if that had happened to me, when I saw the Explorer backwards, I would had said, just take me to the hospital for another by-pass surgery.

    Glad you're OK FAR.

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  5. I'm glad that you're okay, Far. That must have been very scary.

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  6. Hey guys! Was out this evening.

    Yooper, I thought it was the right thing to do. Mrs. Fetched wondered if I should have waited for the cops to show up. I didn't really see who caused it, so I didn't think I'd be needed.

    Bina! Unsettling isn't the word. "Ex-lax moment" is more like The Word. ;-)

    Olivia, me too. I'm not sure the guy with the smashed-up front end even had his airbag go off.

    FM, LOL! Or not. Maybe a pacemaker?

    Boran, mostly in retrospect. Things were happening so fast I really didn't have time to get scared before I was out of the melee.

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  7. Hey Far! Have you seen the History channel's program about what the world would be like without humans? It showed bumper cars at an amusement park in Chernobyl, Russia. It was Monday there, for many years. You should check this program out.

    Thanks, yooper

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  8. I hadn't seen that one, Yooper. Maybe I'll get my father-in-law to tape it if it comes around again (we don't have satellite, but he does). Barring places where a reactor melts down, from what I've seen around here, nature would quickly reclaim anything we're willing to abandon.

    If things go pear-shaped, "playing in traffic" is one thing I won't miss.

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  9. Hey Far! You're quite right about how fast nature returns, this program went into scenes of 5 years after, 10yrs, 25yrs, 5o yrs, 100yrs and 250 years. A good segment was about Boulder dam electrical generation plant.

    It's the events, that might lead to an end of our civilization, as suggested by these scientists, is what I'd like you to get. This concept has been the same for over 50 years and one I share.

    At least those Romans and Mayans, never had to go through an experience like you just had. That in itself is something to ponder....

    Thanks, yooper

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  10. That was some driving, far! I'm so glad everybody was okay, and yeah, you're a nice guy for going back to check on them.

    Nancyp

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