Burrs under my saddle

I should be flying high… on top of the world with my head in the clouds… unstoppable with giddy joy. Put me behind the wheel of a car, put that car in traffic, and quickly I find I have burrs under my saddle.

On my way to work, I travel through a place where two lines from the right join with two lanes from the left, but the four-lane highway quickly becomes three-lane because the right-hand lane is “for exit only.” Needless to say, I squeeze into the next lane as quickly as I can, and then sit in slow-moving traffic while other drives zip by on the right. Few of them are using the exit (and, although I have no proof, I think some get off on the exit only to get back on the highway a few hundred feet later, possibly passing a car or five in the process). I would have no objection if the two lanes merged as a zipper—a car from the right, then a car from the left, taking turns as they taught us to do when we were children. Instead, judging by the relative speed in the two lanes, about ten cars are getting through in the right lane for every one that passes the merge in the left lane.

I’m tempted, as always in this situation, to sit close to the car in front of me, so none of those terrible people will take advantage of me. The driver of a large black pick-up truck was bolder than I was and managed to squeeze in front of me at the last second. I guess he cared less about the danger of a collision than I did. I said one of those things I’m not proud of saying—words I’d be ashamed for my mother or my daughter to hear me saying. I think the driver of the pick-up truck could read my lips. His lips were moving too, but I didn’t bother trying to read what he was saying. For all I know, he was singing along with the radio or talking on a handless cell phone.

At least he stayed in front of me. Other drivers kept changing lanes—without signaling, of course—in the hopes that they could get to work two or three seconds sooner. I think that all the traffic would flow smoother and quicker, if people would just stay in the same line, but then I’m not a traffic engineer.

Later the same day, on my way home from work, I stopped to buy a tank of gas. As the gas was flowing and I was washing the windows, I heard an explosion that very nearly moved me to drop to the pavement. It sounded very much like a gunshot, but it was not from a gun. The driver of the motorcycle had started his engine and it backfired, and I’m sure he did it on purpose. On his way out of the station he revved his engine and managed to create two more backfires along with a lot of other unneeded noise.

Later that afternoon, driving to the campus where I teach, I was first in line to turn left when the light changed when I heard a siren. I turned off the radio, looked left and then right, and saw the ambulance coming down the road from my right. Of course the light changed before the ambulance reached the intersection. Of course I stayed where I was, yielding the intersection to the ambulance. Of course the person behind me honked a horn. I pointed dramatically in the direction of the ambulance, and I think that driver got the point; he or she did not honk again.

But when the ambulance had gone through the intersection, the woman facing me decided that if I would yield to an ambulance with flashing lights and siren and honking horn, surely I wouldn’t mind yielding to her. She made her right turn on a red light, cutting me off. I didn’t say anything, but she must have expected some words from me, because she went ahead and made a gesture of contempt in my direction in spite of my silence.

None of these things should matter. They all come from living in a sinful world populated by thoughtless and self-centered sinners. Like the apostle Paul, I could count myself chief of sinners, most desperately in need of redemption. I should be flying high, not complaining about the idiots on the ground.

But haters are gonna hate, and curmudgeons are going to grumble. It’s the way we are. Have a good day. J.

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