Sunday, July 10, 2005

No passing zone

I drove my mother to the hospital in Berwick this morning. Nothing serious, we hope*; just a bit of gastrointestinal distress, possibly stress-related, and they're holding her until tomorrow at least. It's not the closest hospital, but my brother works there, and he wanted to be able to keep an eye on her. Berwick is something like 30 miles west-by-southwest of our house. My father is currently in a hospital in Wilkes-Barre, which is about 8 miles east-by-northeast of our house. I work 33 miles north-by-northeast of our house. All of which will make visiting them in the coming days a bit of a trick to coordinate.

The road to Berwick is a long three-lane route along the Susquehanna river. It used to be alternating stretches of passing and no-passing zones, but some genius at PennDOT decided it would be better to convert this into twenty miles of one-lane "No Passing" zones in both directions with a rarely-used turning lane in the center. The upshot of this is that the speed of travel along Route 11 is entirely determined by the speed of the slowest car, at least for everyone behind that car. Unless, of course, people decide to ignore the posted rules.

Traveling at 9:00 on a Sunday morning it seems that your biggest concern should be "Sunday Drivers", little old ladies (or little old men) who only drive their cars on Sundays to go to church and then maybe go for a country ramble afterwards. Such is the stereotype. But stereotypes are often wrong.

No, the two Sunday Drivers blocking traffic by going at 40 m.p.h. through a 55 m.p.h. "No Passing" zone were motorcycle enthusiasts. Two fat, helmetless, ape-hanger-hanging West Coast Choppers wannabees, oblivious to the traffic behind them. Oblivious to the fact that two cars back was a guy trying to get his mother to the hospital.

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. You probably wouldn't like me when I'm not angry, so why not avoid the issue entirely?

I cursed. I swore. I expressed opinions on a hypothetical sexual relationship between the two bikers. All the while my mother sat next to me, feeling ill and experiencing more stress thanks to me, and thanks to these two assholes who were getting their kicks by annoying and frustrating everyone else.

I wasn't the first to ignore the no passing zone; that was a pickup truck about two cars behind me. I had wanted to pass them as we went past a State Police barracks, but my mom talked me out of it - we were in her car, after all.

I did my pass with a bit of panache, roaring into the no-passing lane and cutting hard in front of the bikers. I had visions of them getting run off the road, tumbling into a ravine and breaking their arms and legs, coming to a rest just out of sight of the road, to spend the next few days in unspeakable agony, their bodies swelling around their boken bones and then dehydrating from the heat and lack of water as they lay without hope of rescue, being bitten thousands of times by mosquitoes and contracting West Nile Virus shortly before having their eyes and tongues chewed out by raccoons.

It didn't happen. I quickly put distance between me and them as I continued at 55 while they putted along at 40. Car after car joined me in our act of civil disobedience as they passed them in the no passing zone.

We missed our turn for the hospital, but my brother was able to guide us in over his cell phone.

After I left my mother at the hospital, I resolved to be a bit calmer and more even-tempered on the ride home. I decided to use the cruise control to avoid lead-footing it or drifting off into sub-speed-limit territory.

As I passed the nuclear power plant not far from the hospital, I saw a State Police car waiting along the access road, waiting for a break in traffic where he could pull out. He found his break behind me, and rode my bumper (at 55 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. "No Passing" zone) for about ten seconds before putting on his lights. Sensing what was to come next, I began to pull off the side of the road, and he nimbly maneuvered around me, sped about 100 feet past me at 70 m.p.h., killed his lights, and continued along the road well in excess of the speed limit - not in pursuit of anything or anyone, but just because cops hate driving the speed limit.

*Update 7/17/07: Boy, were we wrong. This was Clostridium difficile, or C. diff., an intestinal bacterium which took advantage of the pre-dental-work use of a broad-spectrum antibiotic to take over my mom's intestinal ecosystem. A few more days, a few more hours, and she might have died.


Betz said...

Harold, I am sorry about your Mom. Please keep me posted on her.

If you need to talk you know where I am. :)

Betz said...

P.S. I am sure you tried to hold your temper for Moms sake..yet you are only human.

D.B. Echo said...

Human? Only? Betz, you know me better than that.

anne said...

I hope your mom is feeling better soon. Best wishes for your dad as well.
Also, I am pretty, make that positively sure that you are not the first person to have ill wishes for fellow travellers on that road. I hate that road. It's kooky like that all the way out to Danville. I want to go paint nasty things in the big white tailgating-discouraging dots that are painted on the road.
By the way, man you are the busy blogger! I come back in a week...ok, two weeks...and I'm so far behind! The muse is a-flowin'! Keep it up, I love reading it.