Circus showman PT Barnum had a problem. His sideshow attractions were so enthralling that people dawdled along at too leisurely a pace. He needed some way to get the flow of traffic moving. His answer was a wonderful new exhibit called “The Egress.” Barnum had a huge colorful sign made up and installed near the final exhibit of the sideshow proclaiming “THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS!” It worked like a charm. People flocked to the “new exhibit” and traffic sped up allowing Barnum to make more money.
Imagine the people’s surprise and possible irritation when they discovered that “egress” is the Latin word for “exit” and instead of a fascinating new exhibit, they found themselves standing outside the sideshow’s one way door!
I witnessed something this morning I’m pretty sure evoked the same reactions. I’ve been watching the news all day to see if anyone ended up murdered as a result of road rage.
See, what had happened was . . .
A group of guys from my church meet every other Wednesday at IHOP off Woodruff Road around 7-7:15ish to catch up with each other, have some pancakes and usually a laugh before starting the day. Today is Wednesday and hand to Heaven, gun to my head I could not remember if we met last week or if this week was the meeting. I mean, I do good to remember what I had for supper the night before; a week? Please!
So, I dropped Budge off for bus duty at school and headed on up to see if today was the right day or not.
When I got to 385 from the Connector, I noticed traffic had already started getting sluggish, which is nothing unusual for that stretch of road, but it did seem a little early. It was a 20-30 mph slog northbound with the usual brake tapping and lane weaving. I figured a wreck or something else equally awful must be just ahead to slow things down this soon in the day.
Nope. A brown, late-model Ford F-150 was sitting in the center median straddling the cable fence that runs the length of I-385. The fence is meant to stop the deadly head on collisions that were becoming all too common on the highway when a car would lose control, cross the relatively flat median, and plow into oncoming traffic in the other lanes.
Apparently, the fence had done its job well. The aforementioned truck was nicely strung up around the back axle and the whole vehicle was cocked over to the side. Looked like the crash took out about five posts as well. In any event, that’s ALL THERE WAS TO SEE! No wreck. No bloody dismemberment or other carnage. Not even a woeful morning commuter trying to explain to one of Mauldin’s finest why he had nearly ripped the radar off the cruiser’s dashboard.
Other than the truck sitting in the median, the road was clear. The traffic was slowing down because fools were rubbernecking a lone truck in the middle of the median. Even the driver was gone already. The truck had an orange tag on the windshield from the SC Highway Patrol so this Ford had been sitting in its spot for a good while.
I just shook my head and drove on to IHOP thinking little of it. Of course, this was the wrong Wednesday and the guys were not, in fact, gathered around pancakes which was actually a bit of a relief since I had forgotten it was Wednesday altogether and had on my ratty shorts and a Hawaiian shirt Budge swears contains a phallic symbol. I can’t find it. Go figure.
So I circled the parking lot and went down the on ramp to head home. As I neared the forlorn Ford, I noticed traffic was getting both heavier AND slower. Driving on, I saw it was worse. This single abandoned brown truck had brought traffic to a gridlocked standstill from just past the Bridges Road exit all the way back to the West Georgia Road exit. For my handful of readers who are not from Simpsonville, SC, the rolling traffic jam was about THREE MILES LONG and growing steadily.
I-385 was a parking lot. I saw big rigs almost jackknife as they ran up on the tail of the jam all unexpectedly. Cars were slamming on brakes and, faintly over the sound of my iPod, I heard the symphony of horns. An LA scale traffic jam had come to Simpsonville.
OVER A PARKED TRUCK!
I wish I’d had a way to get back to the median and hold up a huge sign saying “IT’S JUST A TRUCK PEOPLE! JIMMY HOFFA’S BODY HASN’T BEEN DISCOVERED IN THE MEDIAN OF I-385!!”
As it was, I just pulled off on the next exit and shook my head as the jam continued to build. Knowing Upstate drivers like I do, it wouldn’t have surprised me if some Bubba in a jacked up Bigfoot wannabe with 54″ Super Swamper tires hadn’t taken to the median and tried to beat the traffic with an end around. It also wouldn’t have been a shock if I’d seen someone pull a gun. Early in the morning? Bad economy? Layoffs coming this close to Christmas? I imagine a few of those cars were carrying powder kegs waiting to explode into action ala’ Michael Douglas in Falling Down and lay down a curtain of hot lead at all these people who were screwing with their day and their happiness. So far, I haven’t heard or seen any reports of death or injuries though and I’m certainly glad.
So just remember the next time you are sitting backed up in traffic and ready to kill someone in the car in front of you, someone may be mangled and dead in a pile of twisted metal up ahead in which case, your grousing, middle fingering, and horn blowing is going to be pretty tasteless and you should be ashamed.
On the other hand . . . it may be just a truck.
Hope y’all don’t run up on any traffic jams any way soon! Keep those brake pedal feet clean and remember who loves y’all!
Take care now!