What If ……? (Rush Hour Traffic)

Disclaimer, regarding the post below: No, I’m not texting and posting while driving. I’m just writing in present tense after the fact. 😉

It’s about 3:30 pm, and I’m heading north on I-45, the freeway in Houston that runs north and south through downtown. I’m on the section known to Houstonians as the North Freeway, which begins just north of downtown, and I’m driving to my home in Spring, a suburb about twenty-five miles north of the city.  At the moment I’m going exactly sixty miles per hour, which is the speed limit.

At this point, I-45 is a four lane highway. Now, I’ve always been told that the left lane of a multi-lane freeway should be used by the very fastest drivers, those who are pushing right up against the speed limit. The next fastest drivers should be in the second lane from the left, those who are driving a little slower than that should be in the next lane to the right, and the very slowest should be in the far right lane. To do this in Houston would be a suicidal act, though, because most of the drivers apparently think a speed limit sign means if their IQ is higher than the number on the sign they can drive as fast and as recklessly as they like. By driving no faster than the speed limit I’m inviting a rear-end collision, an excess of rude gestures, or maybe even a road-rage induced bullet through my windshield.

So, naturally, since I’m driving sixty, I move into the second lane from the left, which should allow the faster drivers to pass me on the left. And they do, but they’re passing me on the right too. Not just barely passing me. I look down and see that my odometer has just rotated to the next mile. When it rotates again eleven cars have passed me (in the space of a mile). That’s one car every five seconds or so, but they aren’t just-barely passing me. The first car is almost out of sight by the time the eleventh one passes by. These cars are doing eighty or ninety miles an hour, in fairly heavy traffic.

This is not an uncommon occurrence. I was driving south in the right-hand lane earlier in the day. A motorcycle came up behind me doing about eighty, squeezed into the space between my car and the one to my left, whipped left in front of that car, crossed two more lanes of traffic to reach the far left lane, and then began to work his way back across four lanes of traffic, weaving in and out between cars, in order to exit the freeway about a half mile ahead. I’m not going to say this guy was intentionally trying to win the Darwin Award, but I present as evidence the fact that he was wearing shorts, low cut sneakers with no socks, a t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, and no helmet. If he had spun out at that speed there wouldn’t have been a square inch of his body left with skin on it, if he had even managed to survive.

So, what can moments like this do to provide us with material for events in our novels? Use our imaginations.

If the motorcycle rider had spun out and slid under an eighteen wheeler, what would the truck driver have done?

How would that affect the reactions of everyone else on the road (especially with everyone else driving too fast)?

What if the motorcycle rider had slid out on purpose?

Maybe he was trying to cause a wreck to keep the FBI agents who were chasing him, ten cars back, from capturing him.

How would he keep from getting hurt, and from being stuck there at the scene of the wreck?

How would he turn the situation to his advantage?

What if …….?

What would you do with this scenario?


About michaelsirois

Just a retired educator taking a stab at the Great American Novel.
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