Sir Galahad on Route 422

And how he instilled the opposite of road rage in me

So, I was driving home from work about 7:30, heading west on Route 422, where, for about the past six years, traffic’s been filtered down to a single lane in one or more places so that workers with lots and lots and lots of orange cones and huge trucks with blindingly bright lights can, apparently, hand-polish every single nut and bolt holding together each bridge. Honestly, it is a mystery to me what these men and women are doing out there every evening, but whatever it is, it adds anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour to my homeward commute. I am all for heightened employment, but it seems to me there must be better uses for this manpower. Just setting out all those cones and picking them up again must cost thousands of dollars every day.

But that’s not what gets to me, really. I don’t mind crawling along in a row of traffic, especially not if there’s a Phillies game on, since if I get home before it’s over, I’ll have to fight my kids for the TV. (They’ll be fans before I die, so help me God.) What gets to me is the drivers who, once signs announce that it’s, say, the right lane that’s closed, don’t do the civilized thing and edge over into the left lane—who, instead, keep gunning down the right lane all the way up to where the big blinking yellow arrow forces some other, more mannerly driver to let them in. [SIGNUP]

Okay, there are a lot bigger problems in this world than rude, self-centered drivers. But somehow, their behavior just gets to me. If we all were just a little less selfish, the world would be so much nicer a place.

Last week, listening to the Phils go up against the Marlins, I hit the first of the ROAD WORK 1 MILE AHEAD signs, dutifully and politely scanned the horizon, determined that this evening it was the right lane that was closed, put on my turn signal, and inched in ahead of another, equally civilized driver who made room for me. And along we went, at a pace of perhaps five miles an hour, on our approach to this evening’s 422 bridge Michaelangelos.

It took a while for me to notice that there weren’t any cars in the right lane, though I was still nearly a mile from the blinking arrow. I glanced in my rearview mirror. Where were the wild cowboys, the Mad Maxes who are always hurtling headlong in front of their compeers? A few hundred yards behind me, a pickup truck was in the right lane, moving along ever so slowly, matching the pace of those of us on the left-hand side. What in the world … ? I kept watching, and saw the car behind him jockey to pass him (how do I know it was a he? I know. Girls don’t play car games), edging onto the shoulder, then toward the center, then back toward the shoulder, only to find his (how do I know it was a he? See above) every move matched by the pickup truck, impeding his clear and obvious wish to get by.

In fascination, I kept watching. The trailing car continued its battle to make a highly illegal passing move; the pickup truck continued its (illegal? I wasn’t sure) maneuvers to impede. What I did know is that for once, the shift down to one lane wasn’t causing me to fume and fuss over drivers who don’t take turns, who are sorely lacking in etiquette, who have no spirit of camaraderie.

Finally, the trailing car pulled over into the left lane. The pickup truck trundled on. The next car behind it also sought to pass—also to no avail. The pickup truck driver, for whatever reasons of his own, continued to control the flow of traffic in the lane behind him. I was dumbfounded by his audacity. Didn’t he know we shoot other drivers on 422?

Funny thing is, without the cowboys and Mad Maxes, the flow of traffic was much, much smoother. I passed the blinking arrow sign without once having hit my brakes, proceeded along the single, cone-lined lane at about 15 miles an hour, passed the oh-so-meticulous bridge-bolt polishers, and began to fret. Would the pent-up drivers behind Pickup Truck go crazy once both lanes opened up again? I’d already sat at a traffic light at 30th Street Station that night beside a gray-haired guy so tired—or drunk—that his mouth fell open as he slumped against his steering wheel. People, if you want to kill yourselves, do it someplace besides on the roads I drive.

But my fears were unfounded. The cones dribbled off to the right, both lanes lay wide open, and traffic, while it picked up speed, remained calm. I settled into the right lane, an eye out for the pickup truck, but I never saw it again. Wherever you came from, wherever you’ve gone to, Galahad, know that I love you for your balls-ass willingness to infuriate the kind of drivers I hate.