No, not my age (that happened so long ago, I don’t remember). No, “46” as in “46 miles per hour.” Now that I’ve cleared that up….

As you know, I nearly lost my paycheck about a year ago; but at the eleventh hour (I had received a layoff notice), I got a notice that the layoff was cancelled. Months of trying to get my head around the idea of not being employed by a company I had been with for very nearly 30 years, and trying to “re-invent” myself so I could stay in the workforce (read: continue to earn a paycheck), suddenly became a thing of the past. Quite the emotional roller-coaster, especially since my wife was scheduled to deliver twins in a couple of months.

And so, my commute went from about twenty minutes by car (or, an hour by bicycle – I loved doing that) to never less than an hour by car, and often as long as two hours. Consequently, I have become a “road warrior.” The term may not mean much to those who don’t do hours at highway speeds; but for those of us that do, “warrior” is very much the correct noun.

You see the officially posted speed limit is 60 miles per hour (or 100 kilometers per hour – some people get those confused). Yes, there is usually one, or two cars that are doing precisely 60. Usually, but not always. And, they’re in the left (fast) lane – that is guaranteed. Typically, every vehicle (including 18-wheel “semis”) is doing slightly more to greatly more than 60. I know that, to stay with the flow of traffic, the needle on my speedometer sometimes approaches 70. In the dark and in the rain, staying with the flow is far more important than anything else.

For, the first rule of driving is: “Never hit no one.” The second rule is: “Never hit nothin’.” The third rule is the predictable: “See Rule Number One.” So, running up somebody’s ass, as though trying to mate, and getting out of the way of someone who is trying to read the bumper sticker on the car in front of me is important.

Then, there are those who apparently can only drive by getting as close to your rear bumper as possible (without trading paint…I think), and staying there. You know: filling your rear view mirror with their headlights and sticking to you. Now, I’ve seen cars get within one car length of the rear bumper of the trailer of a semi; but I figure they are way past crazy (which is finite), and well into stupid (which is infinite). But, when they attempt to mate with me (without so much as have an apple or kiss my foot), I get nervous.

So, after making sure there is an empty lane on one side or the other of me, I take my foot off the accelerator. If they want to go faster than me, fine. It isn’t a race. If they want to go slower than me, that’s ok, too. But, I won’t let them stay glued to me.  Dunno what they’re watching, but they certainly are not seeing their speedometer unwind from 60+ mph to, well, the lowest I have seen on my own speedo is 46.

I drive a heavily modified Jeep, which includes an insanely big engine and tires and bumpers. I have no trouble getting out of anybody’s way; but it is just plain stupid to be doing 70 in a jacked-up Jeep. It does make me wonder about someone who is going to weld himself to my rear bumper going a mile a minute. In the dark. In heavy rain. With standing water. Obviously, their lookout doctrine does not extend any further in front of their bumper than the back of my truck. This is not a good sign. This is somebody I want nothing to do with. Dunno which is worse: dying on my way to work, or dying on my way home. I guess, after finishing a shift, for that is always a wasted twelve hours. Becoming a statistic on my way to work means I have just left my Twins; not a bad time to go.

But, it is a battle. I have learned to drive with both hands on the steering wheel. I gotta say, that’s good. But, it takes maybe half an hour to unwind when I get to my destination. No, my hands don’t shake, but my level of “alertness” has to come down from those heights – it just ain’t worth it. No, the commute is not quite the same as landing on postage stamps (aka aircraft carriers) – and it shouldn’t be. But, at least in naval (i.e., Marine Corps) aviation, you knew the other “drivers”; most often personally. On the highway, you never know who’s driving the car next to you, or in front of you. I don’t have a very high opinion of the decisions of my fellow man anyway (to include men, women and the confused). It’s probably a good thing that, driving in the dark, I can’t see what else they’re doing as they propel themselves and their steel steed on the same ribbon of asphalt that I am on.

Go ahead and buy me a new bumper: I’m sure my entire car is worth less to your insurance company than your quarter-panel. But, I bet I walk away from your mistake; while the jaws of life pry you out of your mangled tin.


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