WHERE IS STEVE McQUEEN WHEN I REALLY NEED HIM? – Garry Armstrong

It must be payback. Karma, hubris – or both.

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.

Not a racing car exactly!

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?

Photo credit: RolexMagazine.com

Photo credit: RolexMagazine.com

Sanity and common sense 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 drive even slower.

I whisper a prayer, forgiveness for my wild days on the road. I turn onto the road 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 but rather part of the legion of slow drivers targeting me. 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?



Categories: Anecdote, Blackstone Valley, Cars and Trucks, Garry Armstrong, Personal, Traffic

Tags: , , , , ,

34 replies

  1. You could be Hero Husband. In France, police is much much more lenient than in Switzerland. So, when he drives between the two countries (every week), he knows that in France he can put 135/136 on his tempomat for 130km/h, whereas in CH when it says 120km/h, it’s max 122….. He had many payments to make but doesn’t like to learn from them.
    And my dad, RIP, was worse. He joked that he could drive 50 per wheel….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sounds like the world is out to get you, Garry! And I’ll admit, I’m probably one of those drivers that frustrate you. I don’t go slow (I usually drive seven miles per hour over the speed limit), but I am usually the slowest car on the road. Just like you grit your teeth at slow drivers, I do the same with fast ones!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hate it when the light turns green and the guy in front of me just sits there.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Entertaining post, Garry; love hearing the thought process:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And have you noticed that they always wave more slow drivers from the side roads to go in front of them? I think Steve would rev the engine, get onto the shoulder of the road and cruise ahead…..not bothering to look back. “Eat my dust!” Don’t tell Marilyn I said this…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lois, mum’s the word here. Marilyn keeps a viligilant eye on the speedometer. Plus, as mentioned, I’m responsible for jacking up our insurance rates from my McQueen days. I know I cannort afford any more speeding tickets or the wrath of my bride who pays the bills.
      I don’t think Steve McQueen worried about any of this stuff.
      I still love “Bullit”.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I loved Steve in his driving scenes – and as a daily commuter to work, I deal with slow and ‘no reason’ reasons for a traffic jam on a daily basis. I just want to yell out, ‘why?!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth, that reminds me of my working days, especially when I was on “The Dawn Patrol shift” (The early morning TV newscasts). I’d hit the road (before the roosters crowed),, already agitated about getting to the story on time and find myself in the midst of road runner traffic that sent my blood pressure soaring. Not among my favorite memories. McQueen probably would’ve circumvented all of that traffic with spectacular manuevers — on FILM. (yes, he was an accomplished road warrior also in REAL life).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We get both kinds here, the slow drivers and the speeders. The roads are similar to yours, two lanes, not many places to overtake once you are south of Huonville. The speeders are the ones who always seem to be rushing to an emergency, David used to try to find a place to pull over and let them go. When we first came to the Huon Valley and were not used to theroads he used to drive a little slowly but always getting out of the way of faster cars. After a few months, I noticed he was driving to the limit and sometimes a bit over it. The slow drivers will be local people, usually elderly people wearing hats, people in old cars towing trailers or horse floats, and tractors hauling apple boxes or hay bales. In summer it will also be tourists with caravans or huge Winnebagos sometimes towing a boat or a small car or just driving along slowly rubber-necking. It doesn’t bother me all that much to follow them but I worry about the impatient people behind who may eventually decide to overtake three cars at one go. Not a great idea on our narrow and winding roads.

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    • People who grew up here never seem to be in a hurry. Young and old, they are very casual about speed limits. Garry always seems to on hit way to his next assignment. He’s still, perpetually in a hurry. It’s a New York thing too. EVERYONE in New York is in a hurry!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ironically, I’ve lost my taste for driving – at any speed. It’s probably age, lousy roads, drivers preoccupied with texting, cell phone calls, rubber-necking over a commonplace accident, bad weather , frequently getting lost and the perpetual road work that never ends. I’ve had my fill of the Steve McQueen roadie days.

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  8. I would probably be one of the slow drivers if I was driving in your neighborhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hahaha! Easy there! The other evening I was headed out to a restaurant for dinner — there was an accident in which a motorcycle cop had been hit and injured — the road was closed — all 6 lanes of it! I had to go the long way around! I feel your frustration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many slow drivers. They are on the phone, texting, yelling at the kids. Construction, accident, truck rollover and of course, bad weather. But here, there are just slow drivers. No reason. Slow. Very slow.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Slmret. These are reflections from a bye gone era. Except for the conspiracy of slow drivers.
      I still have a fantasy of owning one of those classic 80’s Mercedes convertibles, the low, sleek ones. Marilyn and I once checked out a Mercedes dealership in the late 80’s. The salesman beamed, assuring us we could easily be in the car. All it cost was what we were paying monthly for rent and food. He was sure that a man like me (still the TV News Guy) would be a natural behind he wheel. I think Marilyn and I politely smiled at the guy and quickly left.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Garry. I enjoyed reading this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry has a “thing” about slow drivers. A real THING.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, Frank. Thanks. I truly loved those days driving rag tops (with my favorite music adding to the joy). My favorite trips: Leaving Boston during a summer sunrise, heading down to Cape Cod and the Ferry ride to our shared summer home on Martha’s Vineyard. The passengers usually included a work colleague or two who added to the “roadie fun”.
      The drives were usually done in Steve McQueen style til we reached the Bourne Bridge — the connector between “the mainland”, the Cape and the Islands. It was always gridlock – no matter the day or hour – with everyone trying to make the ferry which took us to the Islands.
      We were always in good spirits – fueled by “good spirits” and Jimmy Buffet music. Oh, man, such great times!

      Liked by 1 person

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  1. IN THE SPIRIT OF DOING WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING … Marilyn Armstrong | Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

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