Night Highway

It’s a clear night, but dark as I wend my way down the highway; no city lights here.  There’s a crossroad up ahead, and the car I’ve been following is turning right.  Clear highways ahead.  A pickup truck sits at the crossroad’s STOP sign, and with the usual hesitancy of people who do that sort of thing, pulls out in front of me at the last minute.  I hate it when people do that; another three seconds and I would have been out of his way.  I brake to avoid introducing myself, and follow him down the road.  Why is it that people who pull out like that invariably drive slowly?

The pickup truck I’m driving sits up high, and the halogen headlights probe their way into the vehicles in front of them – not much can be done about it.  More than once I’ve been thought to have been driving with my high beams on, but I rarely use them.  Through the back window of the cap on the Chevrolet truck in front of me I see the shadow of the driver captured by my headlights.  He’s slightly heavyset, a little bald, maybe about 50.  I’m following at a respectable distance, but that truck does sit up high . . .

At the first convenience, I signal and pull out to pass him; I still have a long way to go and the hour is getting late. However, he appears to be not so impressed with my headlights as I am as he turns on his high beams and accelerates to tailgate me.  Enough, already, you’ve made your point.  It’s not my fault, honest.  With the first passing car he lowers his headlights but maintains his position just off my rear bumper.  He has had to increase his speed by nearly 10 km/h to do so.

After a little while I overtake another car and hope that this will end it as I watch their headlights fade in the rear view mirror.  Not so.  After a short hesitation, he pulls out on a double solid yellow line to pass the car and then catches up to resume his position tight behind me.  This could start to get annoying.  At the next passing lane I press the ‘Coast’ button on the cruise control to slow down and allow him to pass, but he will have none of it and stays close behind.  Finally, in exasperation I brake and slow down to 10 km/h below the speed limit.  At this point he pulls up beside me and finally, almost tremulously passes me.  After he has passed, I resume my speed.

After a short while I catch up to him, but this time my headlights reveal three silhouettes on the bench seat of the truck – the middle one probably about 10 years old, and the other likely his wife.  I can’t help wondering “What does she think of all this?  Have I sparked a controversy between husband and wife?  Does she know from experience to say nothing?”

I’m not a great fan of conflict, never have been.  Sometimes I think my inadequacies at playing chess are borne out of a feeble mind, but maybe it’s also the competitive aspect of the game.  Conquer or be conquered.

At the next passing lane I pull out again, this time adding a little extra acceleration to dissuade him from following.  Maybe now the game is over.  A few kilometres on, and the lights of a town illuminate the night.  There’s a yellow and black sign of the O.P.P. office at the highway, and though I wouldn’t give it effort, I wonder what his intentions will be – is the office even open at this hour?  What would his wife say?  It doesn’t really matter; I have my version of the events prepared.  No matter how thin the paper there are two sides to every page, and if contacted, they’ll certainly hear mine.  I run over it in my mind to make sure I’ve got it right.

The car ahead of me has something extra on its roof, and as I near I see the luminescent POLICE on the trunk lid.  I slow a little to 10 km/h over the speed limit, and he quickly outpaces me.  They can’t be looking for me that hard.  Nonetheless, when there’s a shark in the water you have to be careful where you swim so I stay back as his taillights vanish over the hill in front of me.  Better safe than sorry, no?  With the cruise control set, I relax and continue my dialogue with the night.

One drop hits the windshield, then another then another, then the whole windshield is covered with a thick flannel sheet of raindrops, obscuring the view.  The Lincoln in front of me retreats to the shoulder, but I go by and continue on.  The essentials are all you really need to see; I can do the rest by feel.  Overhead, angry words transform into light and the flashes scream across the sky.  I’m a non-confrontational person, but it didn’t take long to dig in, holding up ‘my’ version of the story for all the world to see.  Does that really benefit anyone?  I gather up a ball of positive, loving energy and send it to that other driver, along with an apology for whatever I may have done to anger him.  The act is witnessed and forwarded by the Grandparents; in exchange I will accept whatever his response is.  The lightning still leaps across the sky, but it no longer carries anything from me.


Mike Pedde 06/09/95