This Morning’s Drive-Hell Ride at 85
today at 8:30 am
My hands are gripping the steering wheel as if it is the only thing keeping my anchored to the ground. My knuckles are white. I can feel my eye balls bulge; my heart is palpitating in fear. My morning experiment has turned into a joy ride from hell.
I have described my drive down the tollway to the lab many times before, cruising in the left lane, at a speed I feel comfortable with, in control of my current ride. I will pass some cars, others will pass me–but it all feels balanced and I am relaxed and feel safe.
But construction season is in full bloom, and lane re-configurations are sprouting like dandelions. Suddenly this morning my left lane has split from the three right lanes and has become a single lane of speeding adrenaline.
The morning mist limits visibility and leaves the tarmac slick. The left shoulder widens and then narrows, pincering me between concrete barricades to my right and my left. There is no room for the slightest mistake, the slightest bit of over or understeering.
I feel like Tiger Woods barreling towards a crack-up. I want to slow down–hell, I want to stop. But a glance in my rear-view mirror confirms that the headlights of the car behind me are bearing down on my tail. I see the driver’s face, relentless. If I reduce speed, can she? Would she?
As if this is not enough of a horror show, my audiobook is rattling my nerves further as it describes a teen boy contemplating a swan dive into a quarry pond from a cliff 180 feet high. Will he risk his neck to impress the bikini-clad classmate below? Or will he wind up like a previous diver, with a smashed jaw and every tooth broken? Just what I need to hear.
I am reminded of my freezing in panic when I climbed the Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza. This time if I freeze, there won’t be a friendly traveling companion to get me moving again. I am on my own. And I am scared.
At last, I see the “Merge Ahead” sign. I meld into the other traffic, moving to the right lane where I can slow down, loosen my grip in the wheel, and let my blood pressure drop into a normal range.
Three minutes later I am at the lab, in my office, putting on my mask. The day has begun.
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