It’s August - time for the customary traffic madness

August 10, 2014

It’s the month of August. We know that for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that every road, path, byway, sidewalk and turnpike is under construction. Sometimes the Department of Transportation just puts out signs in the summer saying there is a construction zone ahead just for the heck of it; nothing is really going on except the guys back at the office are doubled over and wetting their pants over the prank. Well, that and the fact that cars are backed up as far as Beijing.

I was traveling north to another state last week. The northern part of the county and New Jersey seem to be where a lot of work was going on; the whole place looked like an erector set gone berserk. I can tell you I had an extreme case of seasickness just from all the new rotaries that obviously were going nowhere, just around and around. At one point, I passed pieces of cheese in the road, I suppose as an incentive for what was thought of as a rat in a maze. Of course we love our DelDOT, but why do we have traffic stretching into another time zone and squeezed into one lane, all because of a single orange cone left out in the road?

Merge signs were posted every couple of feet. This is because highway transportation departments know the one thing American drivers hate is to merge. They would rather drive to Vietnam before they let someone in their lane under reasonable circumstances. Even if a vehicle is on fire, they have to think about the consequences of pulling over if a merge is involved. It’s one of the reasons I always carry my passport with me, even if I am just going to the store. Before you know it, you could find yourself heading for the border and the city of Toronto, to make a point.

I know some have taken extreme measures and simply rented news reporter helicopters to fly them out after a couple hours of sitting on the New Jersey turnpike. Hey, I’ve seen them on top of cars waving distress flags in Japanese.

It’s not that most people aren’t sympathetic to other drivers who happen to get in that lane that eventually comes to a close. Well, actually that’s not true; they really aren’t sympathetic, mostly because their brother-in-law used to work for the Department of Transportation before he was indicted on federal corruption charges, and they really have always despised their brother-in-law.

Anyway, the thing drivers fear most is that if you let one person in line, then everyone else wants in, so you have to hold firm. You’ll have drivers waving and begging, throwing crutches and wheelchairs out the window as they inch in slowly.  Apparently they’ve done this commute before. And then before you know it, that driver is letting the equivalent of the population of Des Moines, Iowa, in front of them.

But we are a people who don’t forget, unless of course that memory involves where we parked our car. We know where these people live, where their children live and where their children’s children live.

We know it’s August just by the sheer volume of vehicles on the road.

There are a lot more cars sporting peace and vegan stickers on the back too; frankly I really don’t care what you eat after following that vehicle for a couple hundred miles, and to tell you the truth, my car is always at ramming speed.

The other day a car passed me doing about 100 miles per hour. You could tell at one time it was a convertible, just by the teeth marks left on the surviving canvas.

The driver had one arm slung over pieces of foam from a distressed head rest. And he was wearing the front air-bag. I let him pass. It was August, and I understood.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.