Driving Habits

Standard

I just returned yesterday from a wonderful week in Connecticut with family. We all had a great time: tons to do and the kids all got along. It was a mystical marvel.

When we left Connecticut at 12:30pm, the anticipated arrival time to my home via 95-south was 9:16pm.

That drive of 390 miles was almost entirely nonstop, save for two bathroom breaks and a fill-up at the Thomas Edison rest stop on the NJ Turnpike.

Here’s something from the Thomas Edison rest stop that I can’t believe still exists:

take 51 cents and get back something completely worthless. why didn’t i think of this machine?

I’ve done this before, driven eight hours alone but not with the specter of hideous, desperation traffic born of the summer’s last two weeks  and never on a Saturday. I took this challenge quite seriously and neurotically. I drove as if tailgating Captain Ahab; fixated on the threat of a six-day-long traffic jam looming just five minutes ahead. In fact, I think I left Ahab in the dust somewhere near Milford, Connecticut. With its phantom accidents and construction work zones, Connecticut was the one state that wouldn’t let me leave despite the fact that it was the one I wanted to get away from the most.

I had all three boys with me. Thing 1 who is 14 was riding shotgun and has proven himself to be an admirable navigator, GPS commander and DJ. Things 2 and 3 showed themselves to be excellent movie viewers, sandwich snackers, yoo-hoo drinkers and bathroom requestors.

Here are some things I learned about myself and my a*hem, driving habits yesterday:

1) I love the O/D button on my car. I drive a big Toyota SUV which seats 8. It has an “overdrive” button on the gear shift. That O/D setting is normally on, allowing for better “gas mileage” (please). The “overdrive off” setting allows for more responsiveness from the engine, which likely accounts for my 20.9mpg overall. The way up, last Sunday, we averaged 22.8mpg, as I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. Yesterday, I just wanted to get the hell off the road and onto my couch. I am probably right when I guess that the drivers around me wanted me to do the same too…

2) Sometimes “south” on 95 isn’t actually “south” especially at 7:16pm when it’s clearly “west.” Just ask my retinas.

3) You know Bono (of the band U2)? His wife, Alison (high school sweetheart I believe) is rumored to require him to stay in an apartment in Dublin or wherever is nearest his family’s home for at least a few days after a world tour because he’s INSANE when he is finished. He’s overextended, exhausted and seeking attention and likely grunting, groaning, doing jack-knife jumps and wailing constantly. I think there needs to be a place like that for regular people who aren’t long-haul truckers: a room where we can retire our paranoid and furtive glances between the windshield, side and rear-view mirrors, speedometers and fuel gauges. Somewhere we can allay our spastic over-the-shoulder scans. Perhaps a studio with soft lights, zen fountains and quiet music where we can stretch our blanched knuckles, restore blood flow to our feet, release our talons from their “10 & 2” or “4 & 8” positions and simply learn to breathe again… wouldn’t that be nice? It could be some form of way station or detox program for drivers who’ve been cruising for eight hours averaging 73mph. There simply is no way to get off an interstate highway at 76mph and then be expected to drive 40mph for more than 100 feet (other than to get you beyond 65mph). When 55mph feels like you’re walking, as if you’ll never get home, clearly there’s a transitional problem. No one was safe from my “iForce V8” engine’s wrath.

4) Cruise control is my friend. I barely used the pedals to speed up or cruise yesterday. Bad idea? I mean, I did have to use the brakes every once in a while, but c’mon… My kids know from experience that driving with me means no stops for anything short of an organ explosion. I don’t do stretch breaks or “get a snack” breaks like their dad does; I’m all about forming a blood clot if it gets me where I want to be faster. Although, nothing’s faster than an ambulance, I suppose…

5) I flash my hazards when I’m approaching a high density area to alert other drivers behind me. It usually works. But it doesn’t stop me from wincing and saying, “pleasedon’thitme…pleasedon’thitme…”

6) Projectile vomiting from a rear passenger window in an SUV traveling at 78mph does not land on other cars. It lands all over the side of the SUV to the point where my vision was obfuscated by God knows what. I would have certainly pulled over had my son alerted me to his feeling nauseated before he booted. He did not provide me that luxury. “I just threw up out the window!!” is how I found out. He did however provide us the other luxury of using the power-washer in the dark when we got home. And just in case you’re wondering, no, it didn’t get it all off. The heat, 88˚ and 78mph must’ve had a geothermal nuclear effect on the vomit. The paint is still on the car, however, so we’re OK there. My apologies to Baltimore, Maryland, for my son’s atomized deposit.

7) Motorcyclists on 95 in the state of Maryland are: a) insane, b) dangerous as hell, c) known to travel in swarms. If you see one, there are at least two more coming, at 100mph (easily) all around you. I wince when I see them too. I was switching lanes to the right from the left lane after passing a car at 75mph and one came upon me at 110ish and we were separated by maybe six feet. It woulda been like a bug on my windshield. Later, I saw a group of them on the side of the road applying a combination teflon / kevlar glaze to their athletic bodies and I wanted to scream at them, “DO YOUR MOTHERS KNOW YOU DRIVE LIKE THAT?!” I immediately warned my sons that if they ever rode bikes like that they are out of the will.

8) My husband has a car that the boys and I call the “Old Man Car” because most of the people we see driving them are old men. Last night, on the stretch of highway alongside The Mitt Romney’s church, I was trapped behind a Small Woman driving an Old Man Car. She wove and slowed and careened all over the lane. I don’t think she could see over the steering wheel. I wanted to mow her down.

9) I’m a big believer in using the left lane properly: no loitering. You use it to pass and then you get over. If you happen to be how I was yesterday, on a mission, then you end up staying in the left lane to continually pass. That said, there are five stages to the left lane: 1) passing only; if you get behind someone who chooses to not pass, 2) you tailgate; if that doesn’t work 3) you back off and flash your high beams; if that doesn’t work, 4) you tap / stand on the horn and if that doesn’t work; you 5) ram them off the road. Thing 1 was waiting for me to initiate stage 5 on the Small Woman driving the Old Man Car near The Mitt Romney’s church. I didn’t. I waited for her to careen into the right lane because the road curved to the left as she was driving south (west) at 7:16pm. It worked.

10) I have friends who hate the bigger bridges near the D.C. metro area. I don’t mind them; I actually think bridges are beautiful and amazing engineering marvels. Maybe I’m naïve, but I have a ton of faith in their design and purpose. Wanna know what I hate? Tunnels. I’ll take a back-up on the Delaware Memorial or Chesapeake Bay bridge any day of the week instead of a back-up in the Lincoln, Holland, Bay Bridge or Baltimore Harbor tunnels. I have a theory, the “Pancake Theory,” about one bridge in particular, the George Washington Bridge in NY, however: When given the opportunity to choose an upper or a lower level of a bridge I will invariably choose the upper level. The reason being (even though I completely trust the bridge’s constructional integrity) that if the bridge collapses, I will not be “pancaked” like the cars on the lower level would be. I would be on the upper level, the upper pancake. The smasher not the smasheé.

11) There are five bridges between my house and my brother’s. Once we escaped left Connecticut and then passed his town, we started our traditional “five bridges to home” count. The first one was the GW Bridge. The last one the Woodrow Wilson bridge. When we crossed the Wilson, we LITERALLY howled like wolves when we saw our “Welcome to Virginia!” sign. We were so excited. At that point, it was another 25 minutes (according to the GPS) until we got home. I was going to make it in 20. When we were within five miles from my home, I had made back 58 minutes. As if the traffic gods were mocking me, we hit two red lights less than 2 miles from our house which supposedly cost me 2 minutes. When we pulled up to our house, it was 8:14. I shaved 1 hour and 2 minutes off the drive home. Our playlist for those last 18 minutes? The B-52’s “Planet Claire,” Led Zepplin’s “The Immigrant Song” and “Next to You” by The Police.

Oh… my apologies if you were in front of me yesterday. No hard feelings, huh? And if you were on one of those motorcycles, shame on you…

Thank you.

4 responses »

  1. Heading down to SC on Saturday. I’m looking forward to the drive. I enjoy getting out and just going somewhere. There are a few people on the highway I could do without. The I’m-doing-the-speed-limit-so-I-have-every-right-to-be-in-the-left-lane drivers are the worst. If I’m behind you in the left lane and there’s no one in front of you, you’re in my way.

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