Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for October 14th, 2020

Close Call

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For once, this time I was on the right side of a backup. On my way home from the day-job yesterday, my car was the last one to traverse the overpass from 394 to east-bound 94 before a big rig temporarily blocked progress. My position was coincidental but hinged on a split-second decision I made.

As east-bound 394 approaches Minneapolis from the west, the right lane becomes the exit onto 94. Since it is an ‘exit only’ single lane and involves a curving overpass, there is usually a backup of vehicles during times of heavy traffic. It is common for drivers to make their way over as early as possible to avoid the difficulty of needing to merge over later when the lane is filled, bumper to bumper.

I was in the right lane yesterday, early enough in the day that there wasn’t a backup of traffic. We were moving along pretty well when an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig moved past me in the lane to my left. I was a little surprised by his speed (you know: anyone slower than me is an idiot and anyone faster is a maniac [ala a George Carlin routine]) and wondered if he wanted to be in that lane to take 94 west or would need to move into my lane before time ran out.

I was centered beside the big rig when the turn signal came on. In that second, I could’ve braked hard to get out of his way or sped up to get ahead of him. I chose the latter.

He tucked in behind me with little distance remaining before the exit makes that turn to the right. At about that same time, traffic ahead of us began braking to make the turn. I was splitting my attention between the rig in my rearview mirror and the slowing vehicles in front of me in order to maintain safe space between both.

Then the traffic ahead of us slowed quickly to just short of a full stop. Without time to divert my eyes to the mirror, I consciously figured the stop wouldn’t be a surprise to the trucker because the high vantage point in that cab would provide a full view of the many braking taillights.

As quickly as everyone stopped, the cars started rolling again and I joined without delay, staying as close as possible to the car in front of me to assure the truck behind me would have the best chance to avoid losing all his momentum.

When I glanced back to see how he was doing, something didn’t look right. The hood over his engine was popped open. It was tipped forward, blocking my view into the cab. The truck wasn’t moving. Nobody was moving.

I was the last car to traverse that ramp in front of a truck that was now blocking everyone behind it.

I’m guessing maybe he stomped his brakes so hard that the hood opened, but I never heard any indication of such. Hopefully, he just needed to hop out and close it so everyone could get going again.

When I got home, I checked traffic maps and didn’t see any indication of residual disruption.

As I rounded the completion of the bend in that ramp with no other cars following me, I mentally recorded this as one of the lucky days of my many workday commutes.



Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2020 at 6:00 am