The Classen Circle hasn't been an actual circle for several years now; it's just a winding street that dead-ends at its eastern end, connecting at the west to Classen Boulevard and turning into Northwest Expressway once you're beyond the light. Signage on the left lane westbound indicates that you can turn left or go straight; there's no provision for a U-turn. Just the same, someone actually did one this week.

From the center lane.

I stared in disbelief. Obviously the miscreant had no idea that this particular stretch of the Northwest Distressway, from Classen west to about Villa, has a truly amazing number of idiots running red lights. (I once saw three scoot north on Pennsylvania on a single signal; it is, I suppose, theoretically possible for more to slide through, but I shudder to imagine the circumstances under which this might occur.) There are better ways to get killed, to be sure, but this is a pretty good one.

And lucky me, I get to negotiate that stretch of road twice a day, five times a week; avoiding it adds a minimum of one mile to the commute. In the morning, it's not so much of a big deal, mostly because I leave very early; traffic before dark is generally light, and the main hazard, apart from idiots running red lights, is the nimrod with two headlights, one not illuminated at all, the other stuck on high-beam, and both likely badly misaligned. (I should point out, winter having just concluded, that the Distressway is generally heinous during winter storms, partly due to its width: it takes several passes to plow, or even just to drop sand and/or salt, another reason to leave around six in the morning.)

The two eastbound lanes of the Classen Circle diverge: one ends at the aforementioned dead end, the other becomes an onramp for Interstate 44. A left side onramp. A very short left side onramp with a sharp curve and an amazingly large blind spot. This creates issues in exactly one case: when someone ahead of you is dawdling. The usual approach to this ramp — stomp the loud pedal and try not to notice the tach zipping up to 5500 or so — will not work in this case. It's less than a mile to the I-235/US 77 interchange, and guess what? Both those ramps are on the right side, so the dawdler is waiting for not one, but two or preferably three lanes to clear. Once again, a really good way to get killed. I remember one incident when two dawdlers were sitting there.

This morning presented me with a situation I found amusing, but which could have turned lethal rather quickly. Interstate 35 southbound, about a mile south of I-44. Another dawdler climbs up the onramp at suboptimal speed. The guy who was hoping to zip through there at 66 mph, discovering he can't actually do that and conform to the laws of physics, notes that he can't pass the dawdler on the left, and decides to do it on the right instead. Either he was not aware, or had totally forgotten, that there's no there there: once the ramp ends, it's back to two lanes in this direction. He came about this close to tying a guardrail in a Windsor knot. Were it not for the fact that I see something like this about every third day, I'd probably be appalled; nowadays I just try to make sure none of these wackos are anywhere near my bumper. Maybe it's better in the summer, when the sun comes up at something like 6:15, at least for a week or so, and it might be possible to see where the pavement ends.

And this afternoon, some snippy bint in a Large Sport-Utility Vehicle behind me gave me a couple of horn taps for having the temerity to let a couple of school buses plus one actual car make a left turn in front of me, thereby adding precious seconds to the time it took her to get to the freeway onramp. Under normal circumstances, I take these ramps at the highest speed I can muster over a short distance, but she'd annoyed me, so I decided to proceed at a more cautious but still reasonable pace. Snippy pulled in behind me and immediately swerved to the left, which was wide open for about 300 feet, where a truck was plodding along. I saw her brake lights; I imagined her reaction. She could not have been pleased when she finally got around to noticing the bottleneck that the guy in the truck had already seen and slowed down for. Back in the 80s, I spent a few weeks in Los Angeles-area traffic, and I'd formulated the First Law of Freeways: "You probably should have left earlier." I'd have quoted it to her if I had thought it would have made any difference — and if I could have found some way to interrupt her telephone conversation.

The Vent

  1 April 2016

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