Wide Berth

I rent cars every few days, in lieu of admitting I need a car of my own, and a car payment of my very own to go with it. Up and down that corridor for 90 minutes, I’ve become one of the regulars, with all the priviledge it affords: a keen sense of where the humming pavement is, as opposed to the pockity pavement; a huge violence lying in wait for slowdowns, whereever they may occur; and a certainty that although the road has curves and switchbacks, I now can make the drive without ever registering that I’ve turned the wheel.

Yesterday I was followed by a woman gesticulating wildly. She was driving solo in a car with the trademark “e” on the license plate: we were in the presence of an employee of the State of California. Her car, whether she liked it or not, had been turned into a fishbowl, and we were all edgy cats studying the contents.

So I observed. Her gestures were not rhythmic, but just in case I scanned the radio dial for that song that might light her up in pure pop abandon. Nothing synched, but I did hear that barrel- voiced biblical scholar on three different points on the dial. He sounds altered to protect his identity, or slowed in speed to fill the available time slot. God is like that.

Then she smacked herself really hard in the face. Eyebrow raised, I made snap judgements about her diagnosis of Tourette’s, no, she just augered in on an exam, no, her evil twin inside, no, someone below her reaching up, nice, but implausible, and finally came to rest on the obvious:

A State Worker Is Falling Asleep On Highway 80 East.

Head shakes, rattling of limbs, swerving, facial exercises (I think that’s a charitable way of putting it), more self-abuse and pure shouting, which I will describe as wordless and incoherent. Not once did she pull over and buy a 44 ounce diet pepsi and eat a box of mounds bars. I pulled up parallel to see if I could signal to her that the jig was up and it was nighty-night time, but she was lost to me, us, that.

With a yawn, I accelerated diligently into her horizon.

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