Tomato Patch: Highway maneuvers and human nature
By Greg Glassner
At the risk of turning The Tomato Patch into “Greg’s Travels” (apologies to Jonathan Swift), I am going to recount another trip by motor vehicle I took April 12-14.
The occasion was a zone meeting of a car club I belong to. It was held in State College, Pa., near the campus of Penn State, my alma mater, which heightened my interest, of course.
Because I am now living in what the copywriters call “my golden years,” I make a point of taking interesting detours in my journeys on the off chance I never pass that way again.
On the way up I detoured through Hershey to catch the Antique Automobile Club of America’s excellent museum.
After our meetings, Saturday, I led a small tour of the Penn State Campus, even though I had set foot on it only once since graduating in 1966. Enough of the old buildings and landmarks still exist, however, so my little group of four didn’t get lost. We concluded the tour with ice cream at the remodeled campus creamery, where Ben & Jerry learned their craft.
The next morning, I stopped by to see an old friend for a few hours and we relived our glory days in the Penn State Sports Car Club. He has a barn full of interesting cars he fully intends to restore once he retires from his day job, which made me feel much better about my own, more modest retirement goals.
On the way back I also detoured to Fort Frederick, Md. when I spotted a sign. The restored stone fortress still stands where it was built more than 250 years ago during hostilities between the British Colonists and French-backed Native American tribes.
The aforementioned stops were voluntary, but I had an additional delay coming back on Route 17, on that little stretch where traffic is herded onto I-66.
A wreck of some sort occurred about a mile ahead of me and both lanes of I-66 eastbound were shut down for nearly two hours.
Since I had made a bathroom stop and picked up a fast-food burger not long before, I was better prepared to be stranded on the Interstate than most of my fellow travelers. I also had a book on DVD to listen to while waiting.
So I took this opportunity to observe my fellow man.
The first emergency vehicles to arrive were a local sheriff’s car, a fire truck and a tow truck. Instead of coming up the right-hand median, the drivers of these vehicles decided to bull their way up the center of the highway, causing those in the right and left-hand lanes to part, one by one, like Moses and the Red Sea.
Two ambulances and a second tow truck arrived a few minutes later and their drivers decided to come up the right-hand median, forcing everybody in the right-hand lane of traffic to realign their cars and trucks.
I sat there and marveled at this. Because we were all quite close to one another, these two maneuvers took a great deal of time and delayed the rescue efforts.
I am convinced that at least 10 percent of Americans are horses’ patoots and representatives of this subgroup soon made themselves known.
Some guy in a fat-tired SUV decided to take matters in his own hands by driving down the 45-degree embankment separating the lanes of I-66 and turning onto I-66 westbound. Not long after that, another jerk in a 4WD did the same thing. This was a pretty tricky (and quite illegal) maneuver and both were lucky they didn’t roll over or trigger a wreck in the westbound lanes.
After all of this happened, traffic on I-66 westbound was halted for 40 minutes or so, meaning nothing was moving in either direction.
There was another steep bank on the right side of the highway, so people in twos and threes began scrambling down the banked center median, crossing the westbound lanes and seeking cover in the woods on that side to relieve themselves.
This custom continued after traffic began flowing again in the westbound lanes and even when darkness fell. Luckily, no one was hit.
Through all of this I consoled myself with the knowledge that it really didn’t matter whether I made it home at 8, 9 or even 10 p.m., as was the case. The lesson in human nature was almost worth the inconvenience.
My cats were a little miffed that supper was served so late that night, however.