As we’re well into summer and heading out on holiday excursions, vacations, parties, reunions and casino heists, it’s pretty much a solid bet that if you travel by car on a trip a distance of over 150 miles, you’re going to hit traffic.
Also, why do we say “hit traffic?” You don’t actually hit the traffic, but actually just slow to a stop behind it and then wait in the organized mess of it.
We should say something like, “The traffic stopped me, so I then hit the traffic, but I was then arrested for vehicular manslaughter.”
I guess it’s like saying you park in the driveway and drive on the parkway ... unless there’s traffic congested on that parkway, then you actually do a little bit of driving and a whole lot of parking, and you do that over and over and over again.
When you’re literally stuck in that situation, you certainly learn a few things about yourself, like if it’s time to get new brakes, the strength of your bladder and the strength of your will to live.
You also get to see a lot of stuff ... slowly ... and mercilessly.
I was once stuck in traffic so long that I saw a help-wanted sign in front of the building and was able to call to find out about the job, do a phone interview, was hired, put in one honest day of work and then handed in my resignation – I told them it was fun and made a lot of good friends, but I had to move along ... literally.
You also get to stare at cars in front of you and learn everything about them to the point where you’re hoping the people in those vehicles do something illegal so you can give the police a detailed description.
“Yes, officer, it’s a maroon in color 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback XL Sport, Virginia license plate number PSL5979, a window decal on the lower passenger-side rear window that reads, “I Brake for Dolphins,” and was produced by the Hamilton Decal Co. in 2019; there’s a dent on the upper right of the rear fender which was caused by either a foul ball at a softball game or a falling Granny Smith apple from a tree, and the rear of the car sits at a .0974-degree angle due to a retreaded tire on rear driver side and a slightly deflated tire on the passenger side.”
The cops would think you’re the Sherlock Holmes of the highway.
They say when you’re faced with danger and in a life-or-death situation, you find out who you truly are. I found the same applies when stuck in traffic, especially when it comes to the eventual moving and the inevitable merging.
I discovered that I’m a pushover, but that passiveness can be trumped by my sense of highway justice. I also desperately cling to a sense of karma – or carma, in this case – but I’ve grown jaded and skeptical over my years behind the wheel, tracing the issue back to my childhood and an unfortunate incident between my Big Wheel and a neighbor’s push mower.
You also have a lot of time to self-diagnose mental ailments while you’re stuck in traffic as new ones seem to emerge.
But my self-diagnosis is very true to my driving. I believe that letting a person go in front of you should be rewarded by another person doing the same when I need to merge to the other lane.
I also believe that those who refuse my gracious invitation to merge in front of me as they choose to drive right up to the merge point should be punished by not allowing them to merge or, at the very least, have an active beehive thrown into their backseat.
Normally, when something like that happens, my passengers start to wonder if the last lug nut on my tire finally popped off and if they’re going to die.
“Don’t let him merge, don’t let him merge ... you’re letting him merge!” I yell while beating the steering wheel. “You’re letting him merge after he did that?! What’s wrong with you people? All bad things in life should happen to you and him and all at the same time!”
“Mark!” my wife pleads through her tears. “That’s a bus full of Catholic schoolchildren, and a nun is driving the bus.”
“I hope her rosary has bumble-bee repellent because Sister Mary Clarence has gone over the line this time!”
Then God sends a lightning bolt down to my car, but something like that should be saved for the unholy speed demons that are so addicted to going 50 miles over the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic to get ahead, they feel compelled to do the same in a traffic jam.
Yeah, there’s truly nothing like watching a Maserati revving the engine and gunning it to 35 miles per hour to move five feet only to stop behind a Winnebago with a bumper sticker that reads, “My Kid Beat Up Your Honors Student”.
Of course, if the Maserati is the getaway car for a casino heist, then the driver should be more worried about the vehicle stuck directly behind them and, inside, another Sherlock Holmes of the highway is on the case.
Now that’s carma for you.
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. His books, “Good Mourning! A Guide to Biting the Big One ... and Dying, Too” and “Stupid Brain,” are available on Amazon.com. He co-hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday.