Friday, October 5, 2012

Welcome to Denver

Well, a couple of weeks ago I posted a story about an experience that SB, my friend from Colorado, had while we were driving in the Boston area. I had a little experience yesterday while driving here in the Denver area, and since “Welcome to Boston” got what we writers like to call ‘a good response’ (which is just a fancy way of saying They liked it! They liked it!) I figure I’ll share my little Denver driving story this week.

Okay, here’s the story.

I was on I-25 North, driving toward Denver. It was right about 5:00, so there was some traffic, but it was moving. The interstate speed limit in Colorado is 75mph, and I’m used to the limit of 65mph back home in Massachusetts. The same rule of thumb still seems to apply, though: as long as you’re driving within 10mph of the limit, you’re pretty safe. So traffic was moving at 80-85, and I was just following suit. There are four lanes of traffic there, and I happened to be in the second lane in from the left — the left lane being, technically, the ‘passing lane’.

We all know what that means, though, don’t we? Quite a few people simply get in that lane and stay there, passing as many people in the other lanes as they can.

I have to admit: I’m from the Boston area. Usually I am one of those people.

So the lane I was in was moving at about 80mph, but that leftest lane was doing about 85. Guess where I wanted to be?

I kept an eye on my left-hand mirror, watching for a break in traffic in the passing lane large enough for me to slip into. A pair of motorcycles were roaring along over there, and I watched them as they passed me. There’s no helmet law in Colorado, so the one guy had long hair streaming in the 85mph breeze while the other had a shaven head that was pretty red from constant exposure to the sun. They blew right past me, making me wish I was on my own bike as I cruised up the highway.

After the two bikers was a work van, one of the extended types, white and covered with business logos. I have no idea what those logos were, though, since my eyes were glued to what was coming up behind the van — empty space. A nice big slot, maybe five car-lengths, of open space in the traffic for me to slip into.

I was a happy guy.

The van blew past much as the bikers had (though without looking like near as much fun) and I hit the directional and pulled to my left. Success! I looked at the traffic ahead, trying to see if the lane I was in was still moving fast for as far as the eye could see, making sure I had made a good decision. What caught my attention rather than the traffic in my lane was the sight of the two bikers yanking their Harleys to the right, through one, then two, and finally three lanes of traffic in the blink of an eye. I remember having the impression that they must have almost missed their exit, and then the van ahead of me grabbed my attention. Grabbed it with two fists and squeezed.

He had been moving pretty well when he passed me, and even though I had accelerated as I took possession of that coveted passing lane I had still lost ground on him. Thus it was that he was quite a few car-lengths ahead of me when the driver just freaked out. He seemed to also try to jerk his vehicle suddenly to the right just as the bikers had, but this guy was driving about 5,000lbs more vehicle than either of the helmetless Harley riders. The front of the van whipped into the next lane over, but the rear seemed to take a little while to catch on. For just a second I was looking at the van somewhat broadside as, tires screeching a bit, the front and back ends of the vehicle were in completely separate lanes. Then the back of the van got the idea and slid over to follow the front wheels in their new and slightly different course.

Now, though, with the van completely out of my way, I could see the bucket.

Yeah, there it was. A big orange plastic bucket, one of those five gallon babies that you can get at Home Depot for less than $3. They call it the ‘Homer Bucket’. Well Homer had apparently chucked this bucket from a moving vehicle, and he hadn’t even had the decency to throw it off by the side of the road, like a common litterbug.

Oh no.

This special litterbug had dumped off his big orange plastic bucket right in the middle of the passing lane of I-25, and there it was, spinning and dancing in the wash from the big van that had so narrowly missed hitting it. And it was coming right at me.

I’ll paint you a visual.

You know that scene they out into just about every movie having to do with a casino? You know the one I mean? The one where the camera seems to be mounted on the back rail of the craps table, and there’s this long-looking shot up the table to where the guy is shooting the dice straight at you? It’s always somebody like Brad Pitt, or George Clooney, and they have a woman on each arm, and the crowd around them is going nuts cheering them on, and they shake and release the dice sending them bouncing and jouncing down the table toward the camera. You, watching, see what look like these huge dice spinning and rolling, maybe going a little left and right as they roll but always coming straight at you in super-slo-mo?


Take that scene and remove one of the dice, so now there’s just one bouncing toward you. Got it? Now turn that big, friendly looking die rolling along a green-felt-covered table and turn it into an oversize, bright orange, heavy plastic bucket. With me so far? Nice. Last, but by no means least, I want you to forget all about that whole ‘super-slo-mo’ thing and picture this bucket from Hell suddenly appearing and heading straight for you at more than eighty-five miles per hour!

Can you see it?

So could I.

I think I wet my pants a little. I refused to check until hours later when everything would have been dry anyway, but I can not, in good conscience, rule it out.

What ran through my mind was ‘Oh my God this isn’t even my van, I borrowed it!’ … Well, to be completely honest, some quite strong curse words flowed quickly through my brain, and then it was ‘Oh my God, this isn’t even my van…’. I won’t be specific, but I’m pretty good at spouting curse words, so suffice to say if you can think of it right now, I probably thought of it then. At light speed.

Well, there’s a bit of a blank spot in my memory here, so I can’t describe exactly what happened. I can tell you that I remember watching the Rolling Bucket of Death receding in my left-hand wing mirror and realizing that I had somehow shifted over a lane. I was pretty sure that the space to my right had been occupied all this time, and wondered why I just hadn’t had a wreck. I did the very slow, stunned head-turn thing and saw that the car that had been beside me was still beside me. I could see that the driver of that car was staring into his rear-view mirror, probably watching the bucket as I had, but a second after I looked at him he did the slow, stunned head-turn thing toward me. His eyes were very large, and he seemed to be gripping the wheel very tight.

How he moved out of the way at the exact time I was taking possession of his lane whether he liked it or not might be one for Time Life Books and their Mysteries and the Unexplained series. All I know is, he did it.

I gave him a strained-feeling smile and a small wave, sort of ‘Royal Family on Parade’ style. He nodded slowly but refused to release his grip on the wheel. He didn’t slow down, but moved into the next lane to the right, and then the next and final lane when he could. It slowed him down a little, I think, but I believe he was just trying to get as far away from me as possible.

I, for my part, stayed in my lane for a minute or two, letting my system process the massive amount of adrenaline that had just been dumped in it… then hit my directional, checked the traffic, and accelerated off into the passing lane again. This little episode had slowed me down, and I was on my way to pick someone up. I had to make up for lost time… and I am from Boston after all.


Welcome to Denver!

Talk to you later!

1 comment:

  1. OMG I was just sitting stunned as I read it..hope you are that was a ride to say the least! Take care now!