i’m so disappointed in the human race.
(“so, what’s new?” i know you’re thinking. but this time, i’ll keep it brief)
i just got home from a point in viginia that should, by all reasonable assumptions, be two hours drive away. it took me four. i know because i went through 4 full-length CDs in the cd player.
the last 2 hours of the trip (pink floyd – dark side of the moon and momentary lapse of reason) were spent moving an average of 10 miles per hour.
construction? on sunday? no. of course not. not in Nahth Cahlina.
an accident, blocking traffic? well, yes and no.
yes an accident, but no, it wasn’t blocking traffic. in fact, it was on the westbound side of a divided highway, but was stopping traffic going eastbound for 20 miles.
you heard me right: 20 miles.
this accident had happened long enough ago that it was already partially cleared by the time i passed it, both the fire engine and ambulance still on the scene were idle, and not flashing any lights – nobody, apparently, had been hurt. it had also taken long enough to clear that sunday afternoon traffic had time to accumulate 20 miles in one direction and at least 5 in the other by the time I rolled past it at a leisurely 10mph.
there were no eastbound lanes blocked. there was no need to stop traffic for the emergency vehicles – much betteraccess from the other side of the road – and no eastbound cars were involved in the accident. the entire delay, which will still be there long after the 3 cars are cleared away and the emergency vehicles moved on to somewhere they are more needed, was caused by rubberneckers; so-called “onlooker delay” in the traffic report.
i’ve run into it a lot in my travels, onlooker delay. usually when there’s something significant or unusual to see. a car by the side of the road billowing smoke and flame while the owner is restrained by firefighters trying to prevent it from spreading to the woods nearby. one car, mysteriously inverted on the top of another, broken glass and scurrying paramedics liberally sprinkled throughout. those are scenes that I’ve been caught next to, and the kind of thing for which I expect there to be some kind of delay, even if there’s no actual lane blockage. but a fender bender? on the other side of the highway?
of course, there was nothing to see – it was 50 yards away across the scrubby terrain of the I 40 median – but that didn’t stop the miata in front of me slowing down further, even as the cars in front of him sped off. presumably, he was taking a moment to ogle a pair of teenage girls standing amidst the gaggle of onlookers on the other side of the road. or maybe it was the frumpy hausfrau looking distraught while she gabbed on her cel phone, probably explaining to someone why she was 3 hours late, even though it was just a routine 3-car fender-bender.
as you can see, i had enough time to take in the scene for myself, wonder just what in the hell mr. miata was slowing down for, before reaching for my horn. for all i know, it could have been something worth stopping traffic for two hours, and i’d feel insensitive if i honked my horn before i took a look for myself.