I did something last week that I had never done in my entire life. Just my luck, a cop was right there to see me do it.

I was driving on I-31 from my apartment in Santomas 45 miles or so away to my job in Almeida. Out of nowhere, traffic halted to a scratch. It was so chaotic that I almost got sideswiped by a truck. Then it was dull, because all we were doing was sitting there. It’s not unusual for traffic on the interstate as commuters from one city to the next are not unusual, but never was traffic remotely this bad unless there had been an accident.

I saw hours and hours of my life flash before my eyes when I saw a ton of “Road Work Ahead” signs. Could they really be closing so many lanes during rush hour that everything grinds to a halt? I feared that if they were, my ordinary 45 minute commute was about to become a lot longer.

As more time passed and progress was minimal, I came to the conclusion that there must be an accident. There must, right? So I turned on the radio waiting for the traffic report. The AM dial was full of conservative talk radio hosts lamenting McCain’s victory in Florida the previous day and expressing their views on the immigrants from Cuba that assisted him in his victory. I couldn’t listen to any one of them for too long without getting pissed off, so I started maniacally flipping through of them waiting to hear the magic words.

“traffic report after these messages”

The ads were a welcome relief, and as promised the traffic guy came on. “There are minor slowdowns on Spencer Street and 8th and 9th street as is always the case on work mornings. Traffic hasn’t slowed down on State Highway 8 as much as usual. Traffic on the toll loop is clear sailing, so don’t forget to get your Estags so that you can start having cleeeeeeeear sailing around town. Also, I-31 is closed northbound because of an accident.”

After getting over my irritation that he’d saved the most noteworthy part for a single sentence in the back of his report, I started pondering my options. It didn’t take long because I had none. Ahhhh, well, I thought, and decided that half an hour in traffic wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Then I crossed over a hill and saw cars literally as far as my eyes could see. That was at least five miles and I’d gone one mile in the last half hour. That was when I saw it. The there was a little dirty bridge over the ditch between the interstate and the access road. Further, there was a Happy Burger just smiling at me in the town we were passing.

I had never in my life attempted to illegally exit a freeway. I typically look down on those that do since all it does is clog up the access road and doesn’t seem to speed anyone up. But then I thought about it some more and if I was just going to hang out at the Happy Burger and get myself some breakfast until everything cleared, what was the harm in that? Heck, at the rate things were going I could catch a movie at the theater behind the Happy Burger. By the time the movie was out surely the wreckage would have been moved, right? I was wrong about that, incidentally, and besides no movie would have been playing that early in the day.

So I decided on an impulse to try to make my naughty exit. And there was the officer on the motorcyle who happened to be passing along right then. In the previous 45 minutes I had yet to see a single police car. That was why I had thought that it might just be routine construction. Usually when there is an accident, there are police cars headed towards it, right? Up until that second, there hadn’t been.

Surprisingly, the cop just stopped in front of me and pointed for me to get my ass back in line. I was surprised that he didn’t write me a ticket because illegal exits (like driving on the shoulder) are the sorts of things that really piss cops off when they see it. I think it disturbs their sense of order disproportionately compared to the nature of the crime.

Regardless, the cop let me go and went on his merry way. I easily could have exited again, but decided against it. A Happy Breakfast Sandwich would not have been enough to make me happy at that point.

When I related this to my coworker Pat, she explained a theory that she had. Cops, above all, want to be important. They signed up for important work and instead get stuck on things like traffic detail. One of the reasons that crying when you get pulled over is one of the better ways to get out of a ticket is not because of sympathy on their part, but rather submission on yours. You’ve acknowledged their importance, so no need to be an ass about it. It is when cops feel that their importance isn’t being acknowledged or when they have nothing else to do that they start going all Napoleon. When there’s something big going on, like a wreck, they’ve got better things to do. They’re already important.

It’s an interesting theory.

All told it took me about three hours to get across six miles of Interstate. To add insult to injury, I didn’t even get to see the accident. It happened on an overpass, naturally, and they had forced us onto the access roads at that point. When you pay admission, the least you should get is to see the show.

The Interstate was closed for a whopping six hours in all. A flatbed delivering kitchen tiling hit a car or got hit by a car and there were apparently shards of tile everywhere. No one was hurt, but they had a lot of tiles to pick up and a gasoline leak to manage.

When I finally broke free of the traffic and was going 90 miles an hour (why not? Every policeman in the county had Important Work to contend with and nobody on that freeway was going below 80), I heard another traffic report on the radio. About twenty seconds of explaining that traffic on city roads were going slightly slower or faster than expected, five seconds shilling for the Estag, and one sentence at the end explaining that I-31 was closed due to an accident, once again not even mentioning where precisely the Interstate was closed.


Category: Courthouse, Road

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3 Responses to Less Noteworthy Than An Estag

  1. Bobvis says:

    I didn’t even get to see the accident.

    If you had been able to, it may have taken even longer to get through.

    And by the way: shame on you!

  2. Peter says:

    Estag?

  3. trumwill says:

    Bob, don’t you start throwing your logic at me!

    Peter, sorry, I thought I’d put in enough context clues. Estags are the local tags that you put on your car so that you don’t have to stop at toll booths.

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