Thursday, June 13, 2013

I Really Just Wanted an Excuse to Write Bafflingly

I have to time leaving my job perfectly.

If I leave between 4:55 to 5:00 on the dot, I'm fine. No problems! Might get stuck behind vehicles driving more slowly than I would like, but not a big deal... I just have to pay attention.

If I leave any later, though, if we just don't make it out the door or I stop at the store to pick something up (last night, it was delicious turkey bacon), I find myself having to deal with a group of people who take their lives into their hands every time they get on the road.

Who are these people, you ask?

Moped drivers.

Mopeds are sort of bafflingly popular in the town I work in; I can count an average of ten to twelve I'll see in a day, sort of put-put-putting around town past my window. The people driving these mopeds are never wearing helmets, and there have been days where more than half of the ones I've seen haven't even been wearing shirts. Not that I honestly blame them, what with the blazing sun and 15,000% humidity that is a fact of life I haven't quite adjusted to yet.

No, the moped drivers in town don't bother me.

It's the ones chugging away on the extremely busy country highway during my commute home, on the only road I can take that will get me home in less than a hour, that are a problem.

I'm impressed at their serious chutzpah, though.

They can't really drive above 40 miles per hour, and that's at their fastest. The highway I drive to work on, however, is full of hills and curving bits, which translates to a Moped whose engine is screaming I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can at a dismal 20 miles per hour or less the whole way up every single hill, with a line of fifteen to twenty cars backing up behind them.

Cars going the opposite direction - people coming home from Greenville up to the town I work in - are zipping past us at a constant clip, making it so there is just no way to safely pass the Moped drivers.

People pass them anyway.

I have watched an angry trucker (I know he was angry because of the gesture I could see him sticking out his window) fly around the poor guy hugging his moped for dear life. I've watched them be passed by every single car and wondered what it must take to drive the hour from one town to the next (it takes me a little over 20 minutes, but with the speed these guys are driving I'm thinking it's closer to an hour for them) being passed so often and in such dangerous places by angry, impatient, end-of-their-long-workday people driving screaming metal deathtraps.

For me, mopeds are a thing of serious anxiety. For one, if I get stuck behind them I also have to navigate a less-than-safe passing situation, since there is basically only one place where you can easily and safely pass anyone on that road. And only about four spots where it's even legal.

For another, if I get stuck behind someone else who is stuck behind a Moped, I will watch them inch closer and closer to the poor guy sitting on his little scooter, almost touching the back of his vehicle with their bumper, shouting and waving their arms and generally being as much a road hazard as the guy on the Moped is.

I hate getting stuck behind them, because it feels like a holding pattern for an accident that is always just about to happen. It makes me miss tractors from back in Illinois; they may be slow-moving monsters, but they are big enough that you can see them from a mile back, so you have some warning. With Mopeds, the first car in the line is usually nearly on top of the guy before they even realize he's there.

The worst part, though, about Mopeds is that it means I will get home later. Because I will get stuck as one in a long line of backed-up drivers stuck behind a guy put-put-puttin' along the road like it ain't no thang.

Mopeds may not have been meant for highway driving, but some people spit in the face of safety and all reason and common sense.

I try as hard as I can to grab that extra two to three minutes on the road in the evening, because it makes all the difference. The Moped drivers leave their places of business - or residences, I don't know what they're doing honestly but I do assume it's work - at just after five o'clock. So if I can get past the second stoplight of my drive home before they do, I'm safe the whole way.

If I leave even a couple of minutes later than usual, say not getting out of the store until ten after 5 like I did last night, the first half of my drive becomes a monotonous slog of trying to interpret the obscene gestures of the people in front of me and feeling overwhelming pity for the guy on his Moped using a busy two-lane highway on a pseudo-vehicle that was never meant to be there.

I ended up in stand-still traffic last night anyway. There was some kind of accident outside a gas station right as I hit the final third of my drive home. It must have been something crazy, because I counted no fewer than seven emergency vehicles, and that's not counting the cop cars. That's just ambulances, fire trucks, and a couple of lit-up SUV-style things. I hope to God it wasn't someone on a Moped or a motorcycle.

I sat behind a truck... and sat... and sat... and sat. I had kind of had an intuition when I and the rest of the traffic on the road had to pull over for two ambulances and one of the emergency SUV's, sirens blazing, that went flying past us, but still.

I don't really have the self-preservation God gave a goat, so rather than turn off onto a side road when I saw that, I ended up in the line of traffic anyway.

Eventually a cop drove slowly past us to tell us how to take a certain road ("If you turn right and right and right, you'll be fine!") and get around the accident site, which led to the most pitiful line of people attempting terrible three-point-turnarounds you've ever seen in your life. On either side of the highway at that point there are fairly deep ditches and then an awful lot of trees, so it was not an easy turnaround situation... and for some reason nobody wanted to drive the four hundred feet up and turn around in the gas station parking lot.

Which is what I did, because I do not like ditches.

So my drive home, which should take about 25 minutes on any usual day, took around 45-50.

There is a special kind of empty place your brain gets to after your drive takes twice the time it should, where everything just shuts off and you find yourself not even hearing the voices on NPR so much as letting them wash over you. Your brain is nothing but vaguely furious buzzing.

Luckily, the answer to that problem is an easy one; spend about twenty minutes playing with your dog, who doesn't care that you're late because he has no sense of time and no matter how long you're gone, it's been SO MANY HOURS and he MISSED YOU SO MUCH.

The best part of having a dog is that it is hard to be mad that your day was slightly inconvenient when there is somebody who is so happy you are there to play with them that they fall over from sheer ecstasy. 

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