Sunday, September 19, 1999

Truckin' in the Tristate: Keep on waitin'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Why is it whenever an 18-wheeler wrecks, it falls over? And why is it when it falls over, it falls across three lanes of traffic?

        Happens every time. Happened twice in three days on Interstate 71 last week. Traffic was backed up two time zones while they cleaned up the busted stuff and tugged the truck upright, which I'm guessing was like getting a pregnant cow to rhumba.

        Driving would be great, if we could do it.

        “Tell us about driving, grandpa,” they will ask me.

        “Well,” I'll say. “Back in the '80s, you could get in your car and be at the grocery store in 10 minutes. If you lived in Montgomery, you could leave your house at 8 o'clock and be downtown by 8:20.”

        “No way!” they'll say.

        “Oh, yes. In the old days, driving was the way to get where you wanted to go. That was before 18-wheelers crashed and always landed on their sides, blocking the entire highway. It was before The Age of Orange Barrels.”

        “You mean people actually used their cars to go places ... quickly?” they'll ask.

        “Sure did,” I'll say.

        I remember driving. It was good. Open road, wind in your hair, tape machine blasting. Freedom. See the USA in a Chevrolet.

        Now, I'm sitting a lot. This is what I do in my car. I sit. I look at my speedometer, and I think: Why are you here?

        If car makers are smart, the next generation of vehicles won't have better engines, smoother transmissions and anti-lock brakes — they'll have leather couches, video monitors and all-day dining.

        On I-71 the other day, I could've made better time on a llama.

        And how 'bout those ARTIMIS signs? The ones that hang over the roadway, blinking helpful bits of doom, such as “Heavy traffic ahead”? Here's a tip: When I'm stuck in the middle of a jam the size of Bhutan, I've already got that piece of info pretty well filed.

        ARTIMIS should take a stab at honesty:


        Construction forever. Expect permanent delays. No alternate routes. You're actually driving? Ha-ha-ha.


        A few days after the second truck beached itself across I-71, I wheeled downtown to Lethargy Field for a ballgame. Traffic was OK. No wrecks or blocked lanes. Sixty-five most of the way. It brought a nostalgic tear to my eye.

        And I was still ticked. Before leaving home, I turned my little tape recorder on, to collect my random mutterings en route. I follow one simple rule of the road, and you should, too:

        Everyone's an idiot but me.

        If everyone else were as good at driving as I am, traffic would flow like wine at a bacchanal. So get the hell out of my way. Please.

        Anyway, this is what I said in 35 minutes from here to there:

        It's yield, not stop, moron.

        Could you go the speed limit?

        What is your problem?

        I'm doing 70 in the left lane and you're passing me?

        Look at that guy. Going 80 at least. He'll never get a ticket.

        Get off my a--.

        Driving. I remember it well.

        Paul Daugherty is an Enquirer sports columnist. Look for his lifestyle column in People on Sunday. He welcomes your comments at 768-8454.