It must be payback. Maybe karma or hubris.
For more than 30 years, I drove a succession of fully loaded convertibles with Steve McQueen in my brain. Once, I was racing to a story in the dead of night when a State Trooper pulled me over. He asked the traditional question. He smiled when I told him I was heading to a fire. After being cautioned to drive responsibly, I sped on to the scene. Steve McQueen was with me.
Nothing fazed me. Not Boston crazies or New York cabbies. Oh, hubris!
My convertible days are behind me. Thanks to retirement, an income adjusted to social security, “wonderful” pensions and too many tickets from my Steve McQueen days, I drive like a normal guy, more or less. You’d think I’d paid my dues, atoned for my sins.
Not hardly, Pilgrim.
I’ll admit I still drive too fast, even if I’m doing the speed limit. That’s because I wasn’t born in the Valley and I don’t have Valley in my blood, so to speak. You see, in the Valley, driving is a leisurely business. Very leisurely. Twenty miles an hour is fast for a lot of our local people and not only in school areas. We are talking normal stretches of road with no special considerations or construction.
I’m convinced there’s a legion of slow drivers waiting for me to pull out onto the street. I’ve been targeted. Wherever I go, they are waiting. It’s particularly frustrating when I’m heading to an appointment. These days, it’s usually a doctor appointment for my wife or me. We usually allow extra time for possible traffic jams, construction, weather delays and accidents.
The X-Factor is the slow driver. (Drum-roll.)
They usually appear just as we are pushing up to the speed limit and think we’ll be able to make good time. We’ll get to our destination and have time to relax. I’m beginning to think about playing some music for the drive.
That’s when they show up. In the blink of an eye, they appear. The dreaded slow drivers. A whole conga line of slow drivers. No way to maneuver around them because our local roads are two lanes. One in each direction and narrow to boot. I can feel the anger and frustration beginning to boil up inside me.
If I’m driving alone, I allow the profanities full volume. If my wife is with me, I mumble, tighten my wrists and think evil, vile things. The slow drivers sense this and slow down even more. It is torture. What would Steve McQueen do?
Sanity and commonsense kick in only because I know we can’t afford accidents with me as the culprit. That makes it more infuriating. They slow down even more, sensing my plight. Could it be worse? Never ask that question because the answer is always yes!
It gets personal when I realize nature is calling. Home isn’t that far away but it could be an embarrassment if I don’t get there in time. The drivers slow down even more.
I whisper a prayer, forgiveness for my wild days on the road. I turn onto the road leading to home. I can do this. I can make it. Traffic slows to a halt. What would Steve McQueen do?
Gritting my teeth, I see two cars ahead of me. They are staring at the road. They are texting. They are not old people. They are part of the legion of slow drivers targeting me. When all seems lost as I swing and sway to delay disaster, traffic begins to move again. Slowly.
Minutes that seem like hours go by until I reach home. I pull down our long driveway. I race into the house with personal shame just narrowly averted. I calm down before returning to the car to collect my things.
I look up at the street. There’s no traffic. The slow drivers have disappeared. Is it a conspiracy? What would Steve McQueen do?