Saturday, April 30, 2005

On the Verge

The first time I saw a driver escape the freeway by driving across the verge to the service road I couldn't believe my eyes.

"Did you see that guy?"

"What guy?"

"That guy! That guy just drove off the road, went across the grass and nearly got into a wreck on the service road! What an idiot!"

We would have this conversation frequently.

The weather brings out the best in Driving Weirdness. A little rain and people are all over the place: running red lights (more than usual), careening across the verge, backing up on the freeway (nothing wakes you up faster than 4 Grande Starbucks than to see bright back up lights coming at you) and, my all time favorite, driving up the median (yeah, it's a little bumpy, but that's what you've got shocks for!).

Accidents bring out the worst in Driving Weirdness. When stuck in traffic that's not moving the best thing to do is sit back and listen to a few dozen CD's. But, there are those who absolutely must get to their destination Right Away because they are Very Important. These people change lanes, attempt the verge maneuver and all sorts of other anti-social antics. You'd think they'd learn from experience.

Yesterday was just such an experience.

Four o'clock, a beautiful day, Friday and a bad attitude towards work conspired to convince me to get out of Dodge, head for the barn and just leave early. What the heck? I checked the freeway status on-line and everything was green. Flank speed, I'd be home in 30 minutes. Of course, you suspect that was not the case and you would be right. Twenty-five minutes into my run home, which, by the way, was a great 25 minutes, light traffic and everybody behaving, I came over a hill and was met with a sea of tail lights. No where to exit for the next two miles. I was stuck. We were all stuck. And all hell was breaking loose.

A quick check at the local AM radio station - News and Traffic every 15 Minutes, Keep Tuned Right Here, KTRH, Houston - brought the news that an overturned tractor trailer was blocking all lanes. Not good. Not good at all. I would do well to abandon the truck and walk home. It would be faster.

Looking ahead some cars were moving slowly. There were people standing in the freeway. Who knows? People were changing lanes back and forth. I could see the off ramp to the next exit. It was choked with cars moving at less than walking speed. I inched over to the right hand lane and crept forward. Creep. Creep. Sting changed to Aerosmith. Creep. Creep.

Suddenly, flashing lights caught my eye and a police car had pulled up on the service road. The officer got out and started walking directly towards me. I looked around. Nope, no felons to the left. The officer got up to my Explorer and motioned me to roll down the passenger window. Now what? Busted by a cop on foot? Was I speeding at 0.5 MPH?

"Sir, if it would help you can cut across the verge to the service road and get out of this mess."


"Yeah," the cop said, "today you can be an Honorary Jackass and move on to the frontage road, or you can sit here. Up to you."

"Thanks," I said. And I bumped off the freeway, across the verge like a Professional Jackass, like I've been verge hopping all my life, bounced over the curb onto the frontage road and zoomed home at flank speed. It felt good to be a Jackass.

I got home and checked the clock. Having left work an hour early I arrived at home five minutes before my usual time.

Five minutes sooner. So, I thought...

...five minutes early! Woo Hoo! Par-tay, it's the weekend!


Anonymous said...

Okay, I too was stuck in that mess!! My favorite driver is the one who puts there car halfway in the shoulder to block people from cheating :) It is such a show to watch all those idiots!

nick said...

That's great - "Honorary Jackass".
Way to go Officer. Nice to know there are a few like that out there.

I'll confess to making a 'u-turn' on a highway dirt median one time. For good reason too...I'd just found out that the directions my wife and mother in law had been giving me had us drive 3 HOURS past the turnoff we were supposed to hit. I wanted to drive a route I knew...they wanted this one. We take my route whenever we drive long distances now...