Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Roadside Theatre

It's not rage that drives me, it's competition.
Lennox Lewis

A drive during afternoon rush hour, by its nature, is not meant to be exciting. Aggravating at times, but not terribly exciting. Yesterday, however, in an Atlanta suburb, I had the fortune to see an interesting exchange that thankfully did not end with someone getting hurt.

Paint the picture in your mind…..traffic backed up at a traffic light on a main road, with cars trying to turn right out of one of the many shopping centers sprawled all along the Lawrenceville area.

. Cars trying to pull out into the snarled traffic are at the mercy of a kind hearted driver, one who perhaps has gotten in line due to the favor extended by someone not too far back up the road. In this instance, an older car, eighties vintage, stopped in line, and left a half car length in front of him. The male driver was around eighteen years old. He was already on the main road, and had no reason to move.

A second vehicle, an eighties vintage pickup driven by a twentyish male and a younger male passenger, pulled out on the main road behind the eighteen year old, and could not clear the right hand turn lane. He needed the half car length I mentioned to make the turn. So he hit his horn. More than once. The eighteen year old was next to me, and he had no response, didn’t even look that way. I figured the light would turn, the truck would ride his bumper a while, then one of them would turn off the main road, and everyone would be happy. I’ve seen it before. The driver of the truck had a different idea, however, and he maneuvered before the light changed. He backed up, whirled around the eighteen year old, and nosed his truck in front of the offending motorist. He still blocked the right hand turn lane, but satisfaction was finally at hand. He was in front, the clear winner of the turf war.

Once again, the eighteen year old showed no emotion, no response, at least until the traffic light turned green and it was almost time to move. He abruptly leaned out of his open window, sat on the door where the door track was, and hurled a plastic water bottle at the truck. It had some water, but not too much. It bounced off the truck’s roofline and into the right turn lane. The male driver of the truck, turned, lit a cigarette, and screamed something at his new found friend. Then both drove off.

I drove off in the left lane, with both of the combatants in the right. I was watching for any signs that I should bail further to the left, but neither driver seemed too aggressive. It seemed they knew this game, and knew how to play.

A little further up the road, as expected, the eighteen year old managed to change lanes and as he passed the truck, he threw something long and metallic, hitting the truck, then the object bounced between lanes for the other commuters to drive over. The drivers who just wanted to get home. Not sure what the object was, but it reminded me of a slinky, one that was stretched out a bit. Like he had thrown it before.

Nothing happened at the next traffic light, for several minutes. I guess it’s in the rules of engagement.

Moving forward again, I watched in my rear view mirror, alternating between the thick traffic in front of me and the drama coming up a few car lengths behind. The eighteen year old again threw something out of the driver’s side, and it made a huge metallic thud as it slammed into the rear quarter of the truck, then bounced across the lanes behind them. Must have been a car part he didn’t need, or a brick. Something he kept in the car, just in case.

The truck turned off, much to my surprise. Maybe he had something under the seat that he didn’t want to be found during a police interrogation. As the eighteen year old came up behind me, a police officer got behind him, and I figured this was about to have a good ending. Much to my disappointment, the officer apparently had not seen anything, and he went about his business and drove past the eighteen year old.

Everyone involved was street smart and thugs; that much I could tell by their actions and appearance. Yet another reason to take a deep breath before laying on the horn or using other more pointed gestures to voice your displeasure with a fellow motorist. You never know who you’re dealing with, or what his/her day has comprised of. Makes me wonder how much of a civilized society we really live in now days. Take away the threat of punishment and watch how the masses react.

I made it home in one piece, and in this case, everyone else seemed to. Good thing neither of those guys had a girl riding that they would have felt obligated to impress.

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