I drove to work for nearly 30 years. Only briefly did I ever have a passenger along. There was always some excuse for that. My hours were often strange or I lived in places where no one else lived. Of course that meant I couldn’t use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes so I always did a good amount sitting and watching.
Contrary to popular belief, commuting was sometimes a very entertaining activity. On any given morning you will see women (young and old) doing their makeup while also driving at speeds from 0 mph (at a stop light) to 65 mph on the interstate. You will see men with a fascinating pre-occupation with the newspaper at speeds from 0 mph at a stoplight to 65 mph on the interstate. I did most of my commuting before the smart phone and the car/phone sync, so there were many opportunities to see people so involved in their phone conversation that they completely forgot they were only allowed to use one lane at a time.
Then there were the more organic entertainments. It always seemed that the morning commute was the favorite time to pick your nose, clean your ears, or shave with an electric razor. I even saw a guy brushing his teeth one morning. Once all of those activities, usually done upstairs in the bathroom, were completed the wide variety of breakfast items would start to appear. Everyone had coffee of course, but there was the sandwich, the Danish, the sweet-roll, the coffeecake, the orange juice, and the toast. I even saw a guy eating a bowl of cereal, complete with milk and a spoon, in city traffic. He was pretty good at it too!
Then there were some really bizarre things that left you shaking your head. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a full coffee cup, a pocketbook, or a shopping bag on the roof of a car as it was going down the road. The driver was oblivious to what he/she had done and often happy that people were waving and pointing as though they were just being friendly. In the 80s and 90s, I began to see the vanity license plates emerge. This was the modern replacement for the old-fashioned bumper sticker. These were curious combinations of numbers and letters that left your head scratching. There were several occasions where a driver was trying so hard to figure out the meaning of the plate in front of him that he couldn’t stop in time and rear-ended the car. I guess then he could just get out and ask what it meant.
The strangest thing I ever saw during a morning commute actually happened to me. When we moved to Virginia I had a white 1984 Olds Cutlass 2-door. It had a sloping front nose that created a 12” space between the radiator and the bumper with a flat vinyl flap that kept water and debris from splashing up on the radiator. I parked my car outside then, and one summer morning I got in the car and started to work. I had driven about a mile or so and I thought I saw something moving on the hood, but dismissed it thinking it was just the hood ornament. Another mile or so and I saw it again, only this time it was getting bigger. By this time I was going about 55 mph down the highway in traffic. The thing that I saw on my hood was a Black Snake. Now I’m really not a snake person. We had just moved to Virginia and this was the first one I had ever seen. Because of the cold weather, I never saw a snake when I was growing up on Cape Cod.
This snake had been resting comfortably in the nose of the car until I had disturbed him by starting the car. Generally, Black Snakes like an environment that is quiet and calm. The hood of my car going 60 mph does not qualify for that, and my six-foot long passenger was getting increasingly irritated. In an effort to escape his situation, he began slithering up the hood toward me! This was an excellent time for some ingenious quick thinking. My mind was completely blank. There were no places to pull over and I thought, ‘what would I do after I pulled over?’
Therefore, I kept driving while trying to think of what to do. A number of people passed me on the highway, pointed and laughed, and kept driving. This wasn’t my coffee on the roof; this was a predator crawling up my hood. By then, my passenger was almost up to my windshield and I had the sense that he wasn’t very happy. Wait, windshield, that’s it!
Fortunately, I had reached the part of my commute where I could drive a lot faster. Mr. Snake and I were going for a little ride. I bumped it up to 65 mph and he really didn’t like that, but he was still hanging on and getting closer. I bumped it up to 70 mph and he was ON the windshield and not doing well. I bumped it to 75 mph and that was too much for him. He spun off the car like a javelin and through my mirror, I watched him land in the median. It was at this point that I started to laugh and I couldn’t stop for the next couple of miles to work.
When I walked into work, my boss looked at his watch and said, “you’re in early, everything all right?” “Yes, everything’s fine, thanks.” I laughed the rest of the day thinking of all those commuters around me that morning who would be telling the story of this crazy dude in a nice blue suit, driving a white Cutlass with a Black Snake on his hood.
© J T Weaver
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