The Art of Commuting

I have been driving into downtown Lansing, on and off, for 24 years. I have come at the problem from all angles. The roads leading into Lansing haven’t changed much in these past two decades. I am very familiar with all of them.

In fact, I’m fairly certain that the roads follow paths that have been in use for over 150 years, just as I-75 was a trail used by native Americans on their way to buy fudge in Mackinac in the 1600s. The past six years, in particular, I have driven the same road each morning to get downtown. I know the pattern of the lights, the pattern of the other cars, and I recognize certain drivers, poor saps like myself that work for a living.

I had a minor accident the other day, and it was all about the routine. One stretch of Martin Luther King Boulevard has three lanes, and widens occasionally with extra turn lanes. I was following a pickup truck, and that truck moved to the next lane to the right. This has happened before my very eyes in much the same way damn near every day for six years.

On this one day, however, the truck miscalculated the space available in the next lane and had to stop short before fully leaving the middle lane. So used to passing cars that have merged out of our lane that it didn’t occur to me that something may change abruptly. I did hit the brakes, but not enough to avoid impact. Hitting a big, heavy pickup with a measly Ford Taurus leaves the Taurus at a disadvantage, and it showed. We bumped the trucks bumper, bet we crushed a small section of the Ford.

I was staring right at the truck but my mind could not perceive what it was doing, much like the experience Newt Gingrich’s wife has each night when she sees old Newt strip naked. You realize there is going to be a wreck, but there is nothing you can do to stop it.

The police arrived and issued me a citation. In spite of the other car being a nuisance and failing to clear the lane in a timely manner, it was all my fault. I blame the Native Americans for not building trails with more hairpin turns. The dangerous curves would help keep me awake if they don’t kill me first, much like going on a date with Sarah Palin during caribou season.


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