People on the Highway

With the book promotion (free book right here!) going on, I thought perhaps now is time to get back into the series that started it all.  Ah, nostalgia.

I took a new job about six months ago.  No longer working from home, I have taken to a regular commute.  I’m only on the road for thirty to forty minutes in the morning, but rejoining the commuter lifestyle has been incredibly odd.  That is in part because I am on the road at 5:00 in the morning.

5am is a totally different beast than 7am.

Most notably, car accidents are different at 5am.

Today’s tale: Dude, where’s my bumper?

Country highways before sunrise are a sort of dark that is hard to explain.  Surrounded on either side by fields that will soon host corn, soy, cabbage and a few sod farms even, the highway feels like it is the only thing for miles.  Farmsteads sit what can only be a quarter mile from the road, but without light illuminating the space between the road and the home, they may as well be as far away as the moon.  Headlights from Peterbilt and Mac trucks provide some reprieve from the dark. Mostly those high trucks are there to blind those of us in smaller vehicles.

The 5:00 hour of the morning is the opposite of the 5:00 hour of the evening.  At this hour there is barely anything on the road, hardly any one around and nary a care in the world.  Until there is a care in the world.

Traffic slows to a crawl outside of a town that doesn’t appear on even local maps.  The town is known for being the owner of the traffic lights that prevents this highway from being a freeway.  Whatever happened ahead of me must have happened twenty minutes ago as there is now actually traffic accumulation.  Three minutes prior I could look forward and behind my car to see one, maybe two giant trucks for as far the eye could see.  Approaching the sudden stop there were dozens of cars ahead of me.

Then came the flashing lights.  Racing up the shoulder, a sheriff, two fire trucks, an ambulance and a local police car made their way ahead of the pack.

Accident.

More flashing lights, blue and red and white (I think, the color is all funky in the dark and next to two brighter colors), stay behind the pack of cars.  The officers back there will be directing traffic to a seldom used off ramp, ending the log jam that I am taking part in.

Half an hour passes and the pack gets to move forward a little bit.  Twenty minutes later, firetrucks and ambulances have moved off the road and the funnel opens.

Then we saw it.  The scene.

Sitting in the middle of the road, right over the dashed line between lanes, driver cab pointing right at the overgrown median was half a truck.

“What happened to the bumper?” I asked myself as I was guided through a winding path between the halfling work truck and a fire engine sitting in the shoulder.

In front of the fire engine, standing under a sign reading “50 MPH” was a man, face changing red and blue to match the emergency lights around us, asking himself the same question.

The young man, maybe early 30s, stands and stares at what remains of his truck. He goes by “Bo”, forsaking his given name of Jedidah for reasons he won’t discuss.  The gray hoodie he is wearing is certainly not sheltering him from the breeze, but an hour ago when he left his house all he cared about was the bagel, coffee mug and a new picture of his kid he was taking to his desk that day.  Cold mattered not, he was going to be a car all morning, check into a heated office for an hour then drive to a site where his job was to check the plumbing in a finished basement.  A chilly breeze was far from his mind.

To his left are a couple of fire fighters in full gear.  They are pointing and plotting and generally doing their job making sure other commuters stay safe.  To his right is a police officer talking to the driver of the vehicle presumably at the root of the missing bumper issue.  But all alone, standing in the wind is the young driver who has no idea how he’s getting to work tomorrow.

His hands are in his hoodie.  In the right hand, he holds the picture of his kid with a furious grip.  He’s never letting that thing go.  In his left, he’s awaiting a reply text from his boss.  It won’t come anytime soon, his boss keeps the 9-5 shift and stays in the office all day, every day.  Bo hates his boss.  He’s pretty sure the reply text will be, “Can you get an Uber to bring you to work?”

No. Today is going to be calls with corporate to make sure the insurance on the truck was up to date, followed by routine and mandated medical checks, followed by sleeping away the nerves all afternoon.

He’s running through every possible situation as he stands under that “50 MPH” sign and hoping for the best.  By how his day is starting, that hope is about as dim as the houses in the fields around the highway.

I drive by and when I get to the traffic light at long last, it turns red.  I look in my rear view mirror and see Bo pull his hood over his head.  The cold is starting to get to him.
Thanks for reading!

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