Stop and go. (Mostly stop.)
Rubbernecking Has Him Hot Under the Collar
By Rick Horowitz
There's nothing like the feel of the open road -- the hum of tread on pavement, a change of scenery with every glance.
And that's exactly what this was: nothing like the feel of the open road.
What this was, instead, was highway hell -- the absolute stop-and-go, creep-and-crawl ending to a perfectly nice day, every hard-won bit of relaxation wiped out as the heat shimmered up from the asphalt and the dashboard needle slowly climbed toward "Crazed."
We should have expected it. A sunny Sunday afternoon? Half the world heading back from weekends out of town? Of course it's going to be jammed up. Which it was, for almost an hour, with who-knows-how-much-longer still ahead.
Then, just about the time we'd grasped the magnitude of the situation -- it'll be like this all the way to the tollbooth, we understood, or maybe to Thanksgiving -- we came to the place in the road where the miracle occurred: Here it was bumper-to-bumper, and right beyond here -- right there -- it was moving 60 miles an hour again. And the only thing dividing "here" and "there" was a cluster of cars on the side of the road.
A cluster of cars, and every single driver on the road slowing down to take a look.
We weren't stuck because there were so many people traveling that afternoon. We weren't even stuck because that cluster of cars was blocking a lane or two; the mess was off on the shoulder, completely out of the way. We were stuck simply because they all had to check out the excitement for themselves.
Except that there wasn't any excitement. It was your perfectly average fender bender, the kind of thing that happens dozens of times a day. The kind of thing -- I'm convinced of it -- every single driver on that road had seen dozens of times before. They stopped anyway. And it's the same every time: Accident equals rubbernecking equals mega-traffic jam.
It's a toll road -- these yo-yos think it's pay-per-view.
When I make the rules, it's different. When I make the rules and there's an accident out there, the first official car on the scene checks to see if anyone's hurt. Then they push the cars off to the side. Then they plant trees.
They don't have to be real trees. Plastic trees are fine. Or metal. Whatever -- just as long as they're fat and tall and leafy and you can't see behind them. Plant them between the dinged-up cars and the road, and other drivers won't have anything to slow down for. They'll just keep driving, and we can all get home on time.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Where are the police cars going to store all those trees between accidents?" Fair enough. I'll settle for inflatable; store 'em flat, and pump 'em up when you need a few. They may not be quite as lifelike, but when you're going 60, who'll notice?
Or instant boulders. Or billboards. Or even curtains. Isn't that how they do it at racetracks, when a horse is hurt so badly they may have to put him down? Sure it is -- they throw a quick curtain around the whole gruesome scene, and they keep those curious eyes away. They could do that with cars, too, even if they're not planning to stick a needle into that crumpled-up Mustang over there.
But do something, for pity's sake, and soon! "Crazed" is not a pretty sight.