'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
DEMOLITION DERBY ON THE HIGHWAYS
I do a lot of driving in my job, and I see a lot of startling activity by drivers out on the highways.
Just today on the interstate I observed the following driver behaviors: eating, brushing crumbs from shirt, drinking coffee, sucking spilled coffee from tie, talking on cell phone, dialing cell phone, looking up phone numbers in Palm Pilot, writing notes while on phone call, clipping fingernails, and singing along with the radio so passionately the driver’s eyes were closed for ten seconds at a time.
And that was just me. Other drivers out there actually engage in dangerous behavior.
Oh sure, being distracted while steering a hunk of steel at 70 mph is not the safest thing in the world. But it’s all right when I do it for two reasons: (1) like 90-percent of the population, I’m convinced that I am in the top 10-percent of the population when it comes to hand-eye coordination and driving skills, and (2) just in case my insurance agent is reading this column, I made up the whole thing, and I really drive at all times with both hands on the wheel, eyes straight ahead, and the radio and cell phone turned off.
Although distracted driving is a problem on the highways, the real problem out there is psychotic driving. Some drivers apparently are contestants on a new TV reality show called, “No One Beats Me!!”
According to the rules of the game, a contestant is eliminated from competition if any car gets to a destination before he does. Therefore, to stay in the running for the grand prize, the contestant must behave like a homicidal maniac whenever an unsuspecting motorist attempts to pass or merge or change lanes.
In a bygone era, if someone’s honor was besmirched, the offending party was challenged to a duel to the death with flintlock pistols. Today, if someone’s honor is besmirched—which occurs when the offending party commits the sin of wanting to merge into traffic and get to work on time—again, it results in a duel to the death. Only nowadays the weapon of choice is not a flintlock pistol, it is a Ford Explorer. (Although based on some news reports, pistols are still preferred by some motorists—they must be traditionalists.)
Once every few weeks, unfortunately, I have to travel on the Connecticut Turnpike in Fairfield County. This stretch of highway recently received the prestigious designation as a “Historic Perpetual Construction Zone.” The current repair project was begun during the Truman Administration, and is scheduled to be completed sometime during the Chelsea Clinton Administration in 2039—unless there are unforeseen delays, such as rain or snow, in which case it will be completed in the year 2439.
On some of the makeshift entrance ramps, I’m forced either to merge quickly into traffic between two fast moving cars, or to smash head-on into a pile of concrete Jersey barriers. Most of the time I chose to merge quickly. But when I do that, it invariably inflames the rage of the motorist directly behind me—obviously a reality TV show contestant—who is then obligated to spend the next 20 miles trying to drive me off the road.
During these nerve-wracking journeys, I’m at least grateful that most car dealers do not offer rocket launchers as optional equipment. Otherwise, I’d be toast, and the burned out shell of my little Honda would join the other wrecks dotting the scenic I-95 landscape.
Many people say our roads are filled with bad drivers. But think of it this way: each day over 99-percent of drivers get to where they want to go. And almost half of them get there without significant damage to their cars. Since most of the folks behind the wheel are distracted, over-caffeinated kamikazes, I’d say they must be pretty darn good drivers to achieve such a record.
And if you don’t agree, I challenge you to a duel—Ford Explorers at twenty paces.
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