Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Know Where The Wild Things Are

Rain Storms, Snow Storms, Ice Storms, Oh My!

This past Monday, during my trip from Illinois to Virginia, I was given a special glimpse into the minds of – let's call them cretins – or to make it even more simple, drivers without brains.

My son and his three children had picked me up at 9 a.m. for what was to be no more than a 12-hour jaunt. I was actually looking forward to spending some quality "vacation" time with my son and his children.

Despite anticipated stops for meals and gas, our expected time of arrival in Virginia should have been no later than 10 p.m. We would have had plenty of time to get a good night's sleep before the following morning when my son left for work and two of my grandchildren left for school.

Saying goodbye to Illinois, we optimistically drove through rainy weather as we headed east. What's a little rain, right?

The rain, however, turned into torrential downpours. Before we left Indiana, and all the way through Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, we drove through rain storms, ice storms, and snow storms – THE WHOLE WAY!

You would think people would drive carefully during this kind of weather. But, no. Why wouldn't you drive two feet behind the person in front of you when you could find out, first hand, what crashing into a car feels like? I mean, after all, what kind of wimp slows down in icy weather conditions?

Before we knew it, we saw one car after another sitting in ditches along several highways – state after state.

Part of the reason so many cars ended up in ditches that day may have been because of the states' (all of them) inability to keep the roadways clear. They should take lessons from Chicago and learn two very important words – salt and plow.

But I think the reason cars ended up in ditches had more to do with choices made either by inexperienced drivers or by stupid drivers than it did with road conditions.

"Guess what, People!" I wanted to scream, "When you follow drivers in life-threatening weather conditions – so closely they can see the whites of your eyes – you end up in a ditch."

Having written that, I have to admit that on curves where icy conditions exist, wheels don't always cooperate when drivers turn the steering wheel. So I do understand how road conditions can contribute to landing in ditches, even for the most experienced and intelligent drivers (post smiley face here – I landed in a ditch once when I turned my steering wheel as I rounded a curve, but my wheels slid straight).

No matter how prepared you are, no matter how much common sense you have, though, when Mother Nature takes the wheel, you sometimes have no control. But having common sense should alert you to BACK OFF and to SLOW DOWN!

The only people who seem to be exempt from understanding common sense driving practices during inclement weather, are truck drivers. You can almost see the gleam in their eyes when they avalanche your car with enough ice and dirty snow to completely blind you from seeing anything beyond a one-foot radius. I imagine them laughing their hideous laughs and growling their hideous growls (I now know "Where the Wild Things Are" – thank you Maurice Sendak) when they fling truck waste at all passing vehicles.

And that's exactly what happened to ours (well, my son's). As ice clung to the windshield and then froze there, we often found ourselves peering through tiny pinholes of clarity though the front window.

I was beginning to hate truck drivers.

And then something miraculous happened. Truck drivers, in procession-like precision pulled off to the right lane, one behind the other (they had previously ignored the "Trucks Use Right Lane" signs that had been plastered all over the expressway–now suddenly they decided to access the right lane and just SIT). Everywhere we looked, those same truck drivers who couldn't wait to splash us with muddy snow were SITTING in the right lane of the expressway.

I don't know why. I don't care why. I was just glad they were out of our way. I've never seen so many truck drivers in the right lane, not moving. I should have taken a picture.

The truckers were not alone, though, because we, too, ended up sitting in a couple of spots ourselves on I-70, without knowing why. I even called at one point to find out what lay ahead, but they offered me as much information as I already knew – it may be due to the weather. Wow, they couldn't have been more helpful.

The prayers I used to pray when I passed other motorists who were stuck in traffic on the opposite side of the road ("Thank you, God, that I'm not sitting in that long line of traffic") were probably now being prayed by people in the westbound lanes of I-70.

Finally, after close to twenty minutes, we were able to move. Well, that is, until we reached yet another I-70 East interchange. A HUGE, and I mean HUGE semi was parked on the cloverleaf, preventing anyone from moving forward. Truck after truck after truck after truck lined up like big ducks along the cloverleaf and the connecting expressway.

My son and I, exhausted as we were, decided that we had to find another way. Otherwise, we might be sitting on the expressway for hours, and we were still several hours away from home.

Using his reliable GPS (choke choke – it kept sending us to legal u-turns somewhere in Erie, Pennsylvania, I think), we followed all the routes designed to get us out of the mangled mess on I-70 and to his home in Virginia. Eventually, after numerous u-turns, we ended up at the same entrance to I-70 East, but from the opposite side. That big semi, with all the other trucks, and God knows how many more, were still sitting on the expressway waiting to move forward.

At 5 a.m., we finally made it home, utterly exhausted.

After that horrendous experience, based on my observations and perceptions, here's what I have learned about drivers:

Some auto drivers think they can outwit Mother Nature as they exceed the speed limit and flick off those of us who appreciate the effects of ice on the road.

And truckers? I think the ones we saw that day enjoyed endangering the lives of EVERYBODY on the roadway as they played their stupid games with those of us in smaller vehicles, and we were in an SUV!

Those truckers have vacated their position on that I-70 cloverleaf, but I genuinely hope they enjoyed their stay at the Holiday Inn Expressway.

If you would like to read more from this author, look at the upper right hand side of this blog.

Thank you for visiting!

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