If you ever drive around Milwaukee’s freeway system during the day, you’ll notice that there is a kind of driver on the road that can only be described as “really, really bad.” The nine-to-fivers have paid upwards of twenty-five dollars to store their cars for the day, but the people who still have access to their automobiles and the wherewithal to drive them are free to turn the highway into a Drivers Training film for the rest of us. It’s as if they think that the road is lined with soft bumpers that will gently nudge them back on track if their car strays from the lane while they study those strange sticks protruding from the steering column that make the arrows light up on the dashboard.
Thankfully, most of these drivers are off the road when the chutes open and the nine-to-fivers’ cars are released. In stark contrast to the meandering free-for-all that occurs on the road while they are behind their desks, the nine-to-fivers take to the streets with a finely-focused aggression. They sit in gridlock like rodeo bulls behind their gates poised to lunge at the slightest opening. There will be an accident, oh yes, just like one impala will be taken by the crocodile waiting in the watering hole. It is Darwin’s Rules of the Road, but that’s the agreement. This is the driving world to which I am accustomed.
This is why I cannot process being rear-ended at three miles per hour by a mini van while waiting at a stoplight. Surely I was seen or else the mini van would not have been traveling at three miles per hour, right? My presence could not have surprised her, and yet she drove right into me. Is this a technique used by daytime drivers? Approach the stoplight slowly until you feel impact? Does it reduce wear on the brake pads and shoes by transferring the momentum to another object like me? Is a complete stop due to another’s car somehow considered an impingement of personal freedom?
Daytime driving is truly like walking among Zombies. Daytime drivers are slow, aimless and random yet strangely outcome-oriented. The word “obstacle” is absent from their vocabulary. According to Dictionary.com, an obstacle is “something that obstructs or hinders progress,” but if you refuse to have your progress hindered, ipso facto there can be no obstacle. It’s actually quite brilliant in a Zen-like and completely egocentric way.
When I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw that, among the many expressions not displayed on her face, culpability was at the top of the list. As if Newton’s Third Law of Motion had suddenly been reversed, and my equal and opposite reaction was somehow the cause of her action. Like the Insurance Companies’ mind-blowing rule that you’re 10% at fault during any accident because you were there. As long as Insurance Companies are evoking the Butterfly Effect, by that rationale, isn’t it really my parents’ fault for conceiving me in the first place? And if that’s true, then we have to hold Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer accountable for removing their inhibitions.
I didn’t get out of the car. I knew there was no damage to speak of because with today’s plastic bumpers you know immediately. Instead, I swallowed my indignation like a good boy where it will either dissolve or link up with more of its ilk to form a tumor.
A word of advice for you nine-to-fivers: Stick to rush hour; it’s safer.