Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On bulging veins, trains and automobiles

Note: This column appears in the 9/30 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/1 issue of the Peoria Times

The other day I was driving to work and, as usual, some guy in a monster pick-up truck was riding my bumper. And he was mad at me.

There is a light at 91st and Grand, near the 101. I was making a left onto Grand, and I could tell this guy was too, not because of his turn signal, which he refused to use, but because his vehicle was in my back seat. I had missed the green arrow, and the traffic light was now just green, and so in order to turn I was forced to wait for the oncoming traffic to break.

Now, on these occasions, most people -– and everyone in this state –- moves out into the middle of the intersection to wait, so if the traffic never breaks, the turn can be made after the light turns red. I am honestly uncertain if this is legal or not, but I no longer do this. A couple of years ago, my wife was involved in an accident when she thought it was safe to turn left on a yellow light, but an oncoming car chose to speed up and, eventually, run a red, sideswiping her in the process.

So now I wait at green lights behind the crosswalk when turning left, and if I miss the light, so be it. The thing about this particular intersection is that there are railroad tracks right there, and there is only room for one car to wait safely at the light after the tracks. This guy, assuming that I would wait in the middle of the intersection, as he undoubtedly would have, was now behind me, sitting on the railroad tracks.

It’s difficult for me to explain how ecstatic I was when the light turned yellow and the traffic never broke, and I was forced to stay. I looked in my rearview mirror and this guy was slamming his steering wheel, mouthing words that I assume were very profane in my direction, as he was now caught on the tracks.

Man, I was hoping for that train signal to turn flashing red, and activate the wooden barriers that would have slammed down onto his obnoxious truck. Is that wrong of me? I don’t care. The train never came anyway, but it was enough to watch him squirm for a few minutes.

When I got the green arrow, this guy decided that he was now going to try and tailgate me even more than before, as if that were possible. The only thing that prevented him from passing me was the fact that this area of Grand Avenue is -– surprisingly! –- in the middle of a four-year long construction project, and all traffic is henceforth relegated to one lane.

To counteract his tailgating, I decided to drive no more than the posted construction-based speed limit of 25 mph. I was so happy. Like, inordinately happy.

Then, distracted by the mass of construction cones, and the blaring sun, and this guy’s stupid tailgating, I made an incorrect slight turn in the obstacle course of cones, and stopped right before a giant trench. Meanwhile, the traffic behind me, led by this jerk, zoomed passed, laughing at my idiocy. I even debated getting out of the car and pretending I was a construction foreman, like I meant to do that. Yep, looks like the guys dug the trench. Nice work. Better head out.

But instead I sat there, marveling at how I live in a state where the tailgaters and speedsters always win, and the speed cameras and common driving decency always lose, and the construction never ends. And just then, I heard the blaring horns of the oncoming train.

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