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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Having That Traffic Chat


Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

Moving to the big city would have consequences.  This, I knew.  Things cost more, everywhere is further away, and things just aren’t as convenient.  As I review the past two weeks in the Washington DC area though, the traffic has far and away been the biggest adjustment.  

Somerset lies at a crossroads of several state and US highways as well as the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  But traffic is rarely an issue.  Saturday mornings on North Center Avenue can be a real challenge as people make their shopping forays to the retailers and grocers that line that particular street.  Other than that, it’s a rare thing to actually have to slow down or even take the car off cruise control.

I’ve lived in big cities before, most with major traffic problems (L.A. for five years), so I’m not altogether a virgin at this kind of thing.  But I’m an older and slower man now, so things are tougher.

As anyone who has lived in the DC-Northern Virginia area can testify, everything in life revolves around “the commute.”  Basic decisions of life are made with that daily drive in mind.  The area is awash in freeways, most of which seem to be under construction or repair, as the authorities strive in vain to keep up with the flood of vehicles that stream in, out, and through the area daily.  It’s ironic that so many are out of work right now, but to look at the area freeways in rush hour, you’d think the economy was booming.

Heavy traffic does things to people.  Some become very aggressive, zipping in and out of lanes, taking advantage of the smallest hole only to be brought to a sudden halt.  At the other extreme are those who take things easy, leaving a lot of room in front of them and easing off the accelerator instead of constantly using the brakes. Then there are the rest of us, alternatively driving hard for certain stretches and then resigning ourselves to the slow crawl.

In traffic, my wife becomes incredibly judgemental.  Not that this is unusual.  One of her endearing charms is that when she has an opinion, she generally states it.  In the last couple of years, I’ve moved more and more to the right seat.  I say that this is so I can read, write, and stare out the window.  But even she suspects that I find it more peaceful.  I know I have my driving flaws, but even I can ride shotgun without screwing things up too badly.

Cheryl in traffic is a steady stream of comment and judgment, rapidly passing out summary rulings that would do credit to Judge Judy.  A recent sample:

“Come ON!  Stop using your brakes so much!  Drive smoother!”

“Can you believe this?  He’s not letting me over!

“Hang up your phone!”

“Texting???  TEXTING???

“Does your mother know you drive like that???”

“Can you PLEASE make up your mind which lane you want?”

“Why is this guy tailgating me?”

Of course, many of them richly deserve to be yelled at.  That nobody else can hear her is of no consequence.  Once, she found me looking at her with a small grin.  Her response was, “I need pressure relief.  Or would you rather I yell at you?”

That question had to be rhetorical.

I, on the other hand, tend to float more with the traffic.  I only change lanes when I have to in order to make a ramp, or to get around someone whose even pokier than me.  Rush hour, to me is something to be persevered.  She thinks it has to be beaten.  

Those two responses are directly reflective of our personalities, so that’s perhaps not surprising.  In looking around, I find she’s not alone in those habits.  It used to be if I saw someone having a conversation in a car with…nobody, I figured they were a few quarts short an oil change.  Now, they’re either having that traffic conversation, or their cell is on hands free mode.

Still, we have all become more interconnected, what with Facebook, Twitter, texting, and other social networking sites.  How long before someone creates “Traffic Chat?”  You know, a way to directly communicate your displeasure to that cretin that just cut you off at the ramp.  I think that would even make us all better drivers, knowing that if we pulled some foolishness, we’d hear about it.

That is, unless that other person is packing heat.
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