Friday, July 23, 2010

Get Your Kicks (and Punches, Cursings and Middle Finger-Exercises) on Route 66!

[I have had this blog topic in my "what to write about" folder for over a year. And I'm finally motivated to actually write it, thanks to a few of my northern VA neighbors who I've met the past several weeks.]

It all started back in early 2007. A recent college graduate, I had finally found a job that consisted of something called a salary. The only thing was, I'd have to become a "commuter"; more specifically, a "Northern VA commuter".

This meant all kinds of life changes like buying a gas-friendly car, scoping out morning talk shows and learning to drink coffee in the morning rather than at night. I felt so important, getting up with an alarm and showering each day. As soon as I made that first morning merge onto 66 my first day at work, I felt complete. So THIS is what it was like to have a college degree! I was one of the masses, even following in my father's footsteps.

Driving on 66 each day to get into work was such an adventure. I quickly got used to tuning in to WTOP fm for the traffic reports. I'd love to call a friend or fellow-commuter to clue them in on any traffic. "Seventy-one-hundred is closed after the merge" would roll off my tongue as though I'd named the highway myself. This was wonderful.

A few months into my adventures as a "commuter", I started to notice certain oddities. A license plate that said "66 SUX". A radio DJ apologizing to his listeners who had to drive 66. My own friends asking me "How do you do it?"

I didn't feel right about letting the uncertainties slip in, but it happened anyway. Was 66 a bad place to be? Everyone seems so happy to be driving on it. Afterall, if you were driving on 66, you were probably going to work, which meant you were providing for yourself or a family. Wasn't that a good thing?

No sooner did I let the uncertainties take over than I started noticing a drastic change. It had seemed that my pride and quirky smile each morning was causing me to see the same on everyone else, even though it wasn't there. I quickly learned that 66 commuters were very angry people.

The first time I noticed it was last year. I was driving along, slightly above speed limit, with a convertible full of teenagers (clearly headed for the beach) behind me. Out of nowhere, the car abruptly pulled out and passed me, leaving mere inches from our bumpers. I slammed on my brakes and just missed a collision. As soon as I thought "whew, that's over!", they slammed on their brakes (although no car or thing in front of them), got in the other lane forcing me to pass them, and then all showed off their middle fingers at the same time. The words coming from their mouths were not clear, yet I believe they thought I was a truck, or duck? Regardless, they then proceeded to make it their goal to run me into the guard rail, which I narrowly avoided. It was insane, wreckless, and I wondered what they'd tell their daddy if they'd actually wrecked his BMW. Luckily we were all OK.

After this incident, more and more started happening to me daily. It didn't take me long to realize that driving on 66 was one of the most dangerous things anyone could do.

I have learned in the past 3 1/2 years that people want to rile you up, to make you have some sort of unhealthy reaction. They want you to scream back, to honk your horn, call them names. Because that gives them the go-ahead to do it back, and so on. As tempting as it is to yell back, I've decided that there's got to be some other way. Someone has got to break this pattern.

Last week, I was driving home. I was almost to the place where the city turns into country and all is safe again. I was doing the speed limit, had been in the same lane for 15+ miles and had cut no one off. I was slowly approaching a car who was driving in the right lane. The license plate was patriotic which instantly made me smile. "Ah, someone who loves his country would certainly love others." I looked over to see this nephew of Uncle Sam and to give him a smile. It turned out that he had a message for me too!

"@#$%^&*! YOU!!!!!" (something about a duck again).
(Middle finger exercises on both hands).

I had no idea what was wrong. So I decided to deliver my original message.

I smiled and I waved, using all 5 fingers.

1 comment:

mijoy said...

HAHAHA!! Em, how are you driving that's causing such outrage??? maybe they're just jealous of your prius. :)