Friday, February 14, 2003

You know, I'm really not sure how it happened. I was driving along one day in my putrid green Neon, enjoying a sunny day and great gas mileage. Sure it was small, unexciting, and a tad underwhelming. But cars are for transporting... that means "transportation"... and that means getting from one place to another. That really is the essence of what it is all about. I remember the moment. I was drving on I-255, southbound, nearing I-64. I was in the right lane. My plan was to exit eastbound and proceed to "Best Buy" near St. Clair Square. So here I am, cruising along at an altogether legal 65mph (really officer, I was....) and I had crept up next to an 18 wheeler "Smasher of Neon's." I was actually about half way up his trailer and passing him, on the right, at about 2mph faster than he was going. True, HE should have been in the right lane. Not me. But he was not. So you gotta do what you gotta do. (This is technically knows as "mistake #1.) And then... his right turn signal came on. Not good. I glance up at his cab and saw the drivers face in his mirror. I still believe that we made eye contact. When that happened I stopped worrying. (This is technically known as "mistake #2.) I increased my speed to finish going around him so that he could enter my lane. I assumed that he too wanted to exit onto I-64. After a second I glanced to my left... and his trailer was about 18 inches from my car and closing fast. I don't know if I hit my horn first or hit the shoulder of the road first. It is immaterial. I did both. Thank God for the wisdom of the Illinois Department of Transportation! Placing car-sized shoulders on expressways is a great idea! I began to decrease my speed to allow the trucker to go on past me. (This is technically known as "mistake #3") I was almost even with his cab at this point and as I glanced at him again... he was 18 inches from my little car AGAIN and still closing fast. It seems that friendly Mr. Truck Driver did not want the right lane after all... he wanted the shoulder of the road. Now, I never was much at physics. I only learned one thing that entire semester. I think it has a fancy name. You know... "Bobbie's law of singular objects" or something like that. But what it means is that only ONE thing can occupy any given place at any given moment. Mr. Truck-From-Hell had decided to occupy MY space. I honked again and did the only thing left to do. I left the road. Completely. Totally. I departed the kind world of asphalt in favor of green weeds and mud. Serious mud. The lawn that I found myself on was strongly slopped to the right... toward a ditch, about 10 yards of ugly looking bumpy space, and then a state owned barbed wire fence that seperated the highway property from ... from... something. I'm not sure what. It's all kind of blurry because, well, I was still doing well over 50mph. I drove through that ditch and came up on the other side. I crossed nearly all 10 yards of lovely green space and came perilously close to the fence before I was able to make a quick adjustment, fish-tail a little, and head back toward the expressway. By now the mud was taking it's toll on my little 14 inch tires. All 1,500 pounds of Neon really wanted to sink axle deep into the mire. But, as I'm sure you understand, that was just not acceptable. At this point I need to explain something. I learned to drive in Chicago. Lake Shore Drive is my favorite street. I have navigated the Dan Ryan, Stevenson, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Eden's expressways, at rush hour. I have handled every toll-road that city has to offer. I have driven school buses full of kindergardener's as well as high school students through raging blizzards. But never... NEVER... have I been chased off the road... much less have I ever stalled out in some slimy, mud-infested, ditch. I have two modes of driving. There is my "Country Mode." I use it in and around Bethalto. I drive politely. I wave. I smile. I let people in front of me. I do the speed limit. Well... close to it anyway. And then I have my "City Mode." I use it when I have to go to Barnes, or St. Lukes, or one of those other "take-a-lunch-with-you" hospitals. That mode came in handy in the ditch. It is a fearless.... get outtamywayyoubigdummy... mode. I punched the accelerator (as much as a Neon's accelerator can be punched.) Mud flew. I fish-tailed. I pointed back toward I-255. Unfortunately, in my exuberant adrenaline filled lust for asphalt, I pointed DIRECTLY AT I-255. It quickly became obvious that the term "merge" would not apply. It was going to be more of a 90 degree angle of attack. And it was coming fast. Without bothering to signal I glanced to my left, silently praying that nothing was coming. My will is in order but I have no desire to use it today. The demon-truck was only yards to my left. It had finally come to a stop. I strained to see past it in order to determine whether or not to bother keeping my hands on the steering wheel. That's when I saw him. The truck driver. The man that tried to kill me. His left window was down. His arm was extended out of the window. His hand was pointed in my direction. His middle finger was obviously cramping because it stood out from the rest of his hand. If I didn't know better I would think... well... you know what I would think. I suppose it is possible. Jeffery Dahmer might have flipped-off his victims before he killed and ate them. Jack-The-Ripper might have flipped off the prostitutes before he strangled them and slashed their throats. It is conceiveable that this gentleman was extending his subtle greetings to me in hopes that he had removed me from the gene pool. I was too busy dodging chunks of human-filled steel to pay much attention.

But now I'm paying attention. And I'm not at all happy. And I'm wondering... what the heck was that all about? He looks at me in the mirror... he signals that he's coming over... he runs me completely OFF the expressway... he watches me go where only farmers combines have gone before... he sees me hurtling toward a car-filled expressway at an unholy angle... and then he flips me off? Is there no justice in the world? In Washington DC tonight there are "Stinger" anti-aircraft missles pointed sky-ward. They are connected to computers and radars, searching, ever searching, for planes that shouldn't be approaching downtown. In New York, roving radiation detectors drive the streets trying to find nasty explosives before they can be blown-up. And in southwestern Illinois truck drivers are trying to kill Neon's.

I gave my little jade Neon to my youngest son this week. Earlier I had given my oldest son my purple Neon. Earlier still I gave my daugther my cobalt blue Neon. (Hello. My name is Ron and I am a Neon-a-holic.) I'm now driving a bright green Ford Mustang. I didn't trade because of the truck. And I don't expect anybody will try to run my sons or daughter off the road. But wouldn't it be sweet to have one or two of those Washington heat-seeking missles mounted to the front of your car? These are the things I dream about. These are the things that make America... America. Some people will call it revenge. I call it.... justice.