My friend SB was out here visiting from Colorado a couple of years ago. Now, she had never been out here before, and I had actually gone to great pains to impress upon her the …uh…’different’ way we drive in Massachusetts, and in the Boston area in particular. She had been here for a day or so with out mishap, and aside from being amazed at the thickness of the woods that line the highways (and believe me, if you’ve ever been to Colorado you’d understand her surprise, especially in the Denver area - talk about ‘wide open spaces’!) she had really seen nothing all that different from the way they drive in her home state. Then I almost took the wrong exit.
It was entirely my fault. We were having a conversation, and I was sort of driving on auto-pilot. I can’t even remember where we were going at the time, but I think we were on Rt. 95, and I was in the right lane. As we were talking I looked over at her, and when I looked back at the road I was cruising merrily onto an off-ramp - the wrong one. I wasn’t on it yet, though, and I immediately checked my mirrors, looked left, and saw I had a small gap I could fit into and stay on 95. I stomped on the gas to gain a little clearance on the car to my left and yanked the wheel. My Jeep jumped left into the regular traffic lane saving me from (embarrassingly) taking the wrong exit - but my rear bumper had barely missed the car that was now behind me.
SB looked at me a little worriedly and said something, I believe it was along the lines of ‘That was close,’ referring to the car now riding right on my bumper. I agreed, and checked the rear-view mirror. There, leaned forward until her chin practically sat on the steering wheel she now gripped with hands gone white-knuckled with force, was the kindliest little-old-grandmotherly-looking woman I had ever seen. It was a face that should have been baking cookies, or knitting sweaters for grandchildren, maybe while telling those same grandchildren stories of how she and their grandfather met at the spring fair waaayyyy back when they were just kids themselves as the grandchildren sat gathered ‘round her rocker and ate home-made cookies.
That face, though, was now flushed and tight-lipped with anger.
“Whoops,” I said. “I didn’t mean to, but I just cut her off.”
“I noticed,” SB replied, squirming about in the seat to look behind us. “She’s like, right there.”
“I know,” I said. “Hang on, I want to get a little distance here. I don’t want to be driving along with her glaring at me like that.”
I put the pedal down and picked up speed. I started weaving through traffic a little, knowing that I would still look like a jerk to the sweet-looking woman, but a far-away jerk. I moved up quite a ways in the flow of cars around us, and I had started to slow a bit to just merge with that flow again now that I had left the angry granny behind, when I caught sight of my rear-view mirror again. There, surging through the gap between two cars I had just passed through myself was Angry Granny’s car. She was right on my bumper and all I could see of the woman was white knuckles and angry eyes as they gripped the wheel and glared at me through horn-rimmed spectacles, respectively.
“Uh-oh,” I said.
SB cranked around in the seat again. “She’s still there?” “Apparently. I think I made her pretty mad.”
I glanced sideways at her, then sighed and put my foot down hard on the gas once more. The Jeep leapt through the surrounding cars and trucks once more as I juked left and right, dodging through the traffic. I watched my spedometer climb swiftly past seventy-five, past eighty, and start creeping toward eighty-five. The whole time there was a neat, clean, well-maintained Mercedes on my tail, matching me move for move. I imagined I could feel the malevolent stare of the little old granny boring into the back of my neck, and I started to feel more than a little foolish.
“She’s still back there,” SB reported.
“Yup,” I replied, my response short due to concentration on my driving, and, I must admit, not a little embarrassment. The spedometer had climbed past eighty-five and was nearing ninety as we broke free of the long pack of cars that was all motoring along at roughly the same speed. With nothing to weave around, I settled in the left lane and simply maintained speed. I watched in the rear-view mirror as the Mercedes made its way out into the clear road, swung into the right lane and the old woman goosed the gas. The car whooshed up beside me and settled there, holding on my right. I looked over, across SB who was studiously looking straight ahead, avoiding any possibility of eye contact with the speeding septuagenarian riding in the lane next to her.
“Terrific,” I said.
SB looked at me, and I jerked my chin toward her window, encouraging her to take a peek. She turned and looked.
And saw the sweetest, most grandmotherly-looking woman you ever saw, energetically giving us the finger from four feet away, at ninety miles per hour. The fingers was up, almost touching the glass as she thrust her hand forward. She saw us looking and began to pump her hand and arm vigorously up and down, jabbing the stiff finger viciously into the air again and again as she carefully mouthed a phrase, over-enunciating each word so there would be no mistaking her message.
@#$% YOU!! … @#$% YOU!! … @#$% YOU!!
It was too much for SB, and she burst out laughing. Granny Finger, seeing her reaction, apparently decided that enough was enough and dropped back to a more normal speed as we sped on down the road, finally putting some distance between us and my new Biggest Fan. SB laughed hard for a while, but eventually her guffaws slowed enough to get out a few words.
I looked over at her, her face flushed, eyes filled with the tears of humor, and said the only thing I could think of.