What If…? (Rush Hour Traffic)

[Originally posted on my former blog, Michael Runs the Gamut]

Disclaimer, regarding the post below: No, I wasn’t texting and posting while driving. I wrote this in the present tense after the fact.

It’s about 3:30 pm, and I’m on I-45, the freeway in Houston that runs north and south through downtown. South of downtown it’s known to Houstonians as the Gulf Freeway, and as the North Freeway when it’s north of downtown. 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, the speed limit.

At this point, I-45 is a four lane highway. 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 closest to them in speed 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. Most drivers here apparently think if their IQ is higher than the number on the sign they can drive as fast and as recklessly as they like. By driving at 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. My odometer rotates to the next mile. When it rotates again (a mile later) eleven cars have passed me. 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, and then began to work his way back toward the right, 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, and had managed to survive, he would have sustained massive trauma, multiple broken bones, internal organ damage, and there probably wouldn’t have been a square inch of skin left on his body.

So, what can moments like this do to provide us with material for events in our novels? Let’s use our imaginations and ask the “what if” question.

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 that scenario?


Standard Disclaimer: Please post a comment below if you would like to. All comments are personally moderated by a grouchy old guy, though, so posts by self-promotional schemers, spammers, and lunatic ranters won’t make it through. Everyone else, whether your thoughts are positive or negative, please feel free to speak your mind. Thanks.

Leave a Comment