The scene: about 1500 feet short of the intersection. The light was red, and I was slowing down. The Chrysler behind me was blue, and its driver apparently resented my presence in front of him; the Mopar horn emitted a feeble blat to attest to his displeasure. (The response I didn't bother to make rhymes with "stuck few.") And the light didn't become any less red.

In my younger days, when I had speedy reflexes and a whole bag of motoring tricks, I worked diligently to be the second- or third-fastest driver in any given pack, reasoning that whoever was first was the most likely individual to attract the attention of John Law. (The only ticket I got, circa 1979, was about 220 miles from home, and had the pztrolman stopped me about 45 seconds earlier, he could have observed one of the great, or at least greatly disturbing, distracted-driving events of the century. Thought, but not actually said: "How come this never occurs to you in an actual bed?") And the cops, I suspect, are far more annoyed by people not paying attention than by people who are concentrating on the task at hand. A few years after that particular event, I was solo, heading south out of Kansas on Interstate 35, when some wise guy in a Porsche 924 waved bye-bye, and I decided I wasn't going to take that from the likes of him. Chase was given, the guy in the Teutonic rocket sled, such as it was, disappeared from view somewhere in Logan County, Oklahoma, and I didn't need to be doing 90 this close to the metro. I especially didn't need to be doing 90 while the grey-clad gentleman on the white motorcycle was taking a measurement. He cut me far more slack than I could have possibly deserved, explaining that he'd clocked me at 72 (!), rather more than the citizens of this great State would have desired, and then let me off with a warning.

But that was then. At my advanced age, and in my advanced state of decrepitude, I can't pull off any real driving feats anymore: I have become the rolling chicane I would have disrespected in years past. Gwendolyn, pushing 20 and sporting over 175,000 miles, is no less willing than she was when she was six, but these days, the first order of business is avoiding the tailgater. They're pretty easy to spot when they're behind you, but unless the road is flat enough for Euclidean geometry, they're also pretty easy to spot in front of you. (Rule of thumb: if the first car ahead of you is hitting the brake lights, but the second one isn't — well, you get the idea.) That stretch of I-35 between 40 and 44, not quite four miles, is particularly susceptible to this sort of thing during the commute, when the prevailing speed might be 50 mph at Point A and 15 mph at some Point B a couple hundred yards ahead. Northbound is less problematic; while it goes through the same construction zone, you have two narrow but intact lanes heading north. While southbound looks the same, there's a No Merge Area, the very one where I was squeezed between a semi and a Jersey barrier in March.

Still, that particular squeeze play, while it cost rather a lot of dollars, did not compel me to give up any actual blood. And I may be a little more resourceful than I think I am. Return with us, now, to the top of the page, where a baby in a blue Chrysler — hey, at least it was baby blue — was emitting rude noises in my general direction. As it turns out, there's a northbound-only side street less than 500 feet from the intersection, and "DO NOT BLOCK INTERSECTION" signs are visible, if not always heeded. This time I decided to heed, and allowed two vehicles to make left turns right in front of me.

Bonus points: one of those vehicles was a school bus.

The Vent

  26 April 2019

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