“Just my luck,” I thought, as I came within a quarter-mile of the Williams turnoff, “A frickin’ pick-up truck, that thinks it’s a hay truck. Maybe I can blitz past and sneak off the exit in front of him. Argh! Oops, Sorry Dude. That was close. Crap, this means I am stuck behind him. Maybe he’ll turn right and head to Colusa. Dum de dum dum. No way. Double crap.”
I was heading back to the mountain, from a quick run over to Sac, and there was no way to avoid the infamous Highway 20. It could be the smoothest, quickest jaunt ever; or it could be a trip to the dentist, the one who has just acquired a new drill, and wants to try it out on you, for the next hour and forty-five minutes. Today, it looked as though I were again the dentist’s chair, only this time the chair was actually a bed of nails, and the sound of the drill was amplified fifty times over by the best sound system. Oh, and he forgot to administer the Novocaine.
As the dilapidated rig trundled along in front of me, maxing out at 45 miles per hour, weaving rhythmically back and forth between, over, and on top of the parallel lines on either side of the west-bound lanes, I started to get antsy. I thought of the expanse of highway that stretched out in front of me, and how long it would take to get as fas as the edge of the range of coastal mountains that I would have to climb, in order to get back to Highway 101, the lifeline of the interior of Mendocino County. I let out a tremendous sigh. then another, and then I started muttering to myself.
Now I have been stuck behind Winnepiggos countless times; they annoy me but they also remind me that I live in a spot that others travel from all corners of the globe, to see. I have been stuck behind big-rigs, spewing diesel smoke out of dual exhaust systems, and remained calm because I recognize that living in a remote place in NorCal, means that most of what I purchase locally, must be transported by big-rig. Finally, I have been stuck behind little old ladies (the original lol) and not gotten impatient, because I may too be old some day, if I don’t do something dumb, and get my ass killed on the highway. lol
But this clown was unique. His pick-up truck was a relic left over from a bygone era, and the rust which permeated the undercarriage, indicated it had begun its sorry existence in a cold-weather climate, where they used salt to counter the effects of ice. There were two bales of hay visible, that had been draped across the walls of the truck bed, perpendicular to the bed, so that a full foot of the two hay bales, stuck over each side of the truck. The net result is that I could not see past the vehicle, and he could not see me, any possibly existing mirrors effectively blocked by the presence of a whole lot of hay.
Particles of this hay kept whipping back at me, bigger pieces lodging in my windshield wipers, further annoying me. Because it was still before six in the morning, we had the highway to ourselves. I do not know that it would have mattered, or if vehicles lined up behind me might have changed the way things turned out. It does not matter now.
Instinctively, I knew it was a set-up for disaster. I knew that I could never maintain my cool, or any semblance of rational thought, if this yahoo maintained this pace. You know what I should have done, of course. I think a preschooler could have figured it out. I should have just pulled over, twisted up a little goodness, and proceeded to get high as a red-tailed kite, floating effortlessly in the heavens above. I should have known that this was not a regular, run-of-the-mill trip to town for the local yokel, in the vehicle in front of me.
It was my own personal “dance of the dead,” my swan song, as far as dealing with the immutable forces of an uncaring, unfeeling universe, in the form of a red-neck vessel of sloth and ignorance, placed here on this highway to hell, just to fuck with my head. I did not listen to the voice of calm and reason, which dictated that I climb back out of the ring, set my boxing gloves aside, and take five, or maybe fifteen minutes, to slow the pace down.
No, I could have listened, and should have done more than just listen, but that is all just so much water over the dam, and there is no retrieving it now. Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead! Except that there is still the problem of the haybeater in front of me, and my unwillingness to ease to the left, far enough to see past that mountain of hay, to pass that gnarly, slightly lopsided wreck.
“Dude, you are giving me a headache!” Instinctively I had blurted out my words aloud, demonstrating my unhappiness to the fly that was lazily buzzing around my head. There was no one and nothing else to hear my words, least of all the jerk in the joke of a truck, that blocked my passage through to freedom.
As I contemplated the situation, two miles and almost three minutes passed, during which the pressure cooker that my brain had become, began to really heat up, sending a red mist around my eyes, that made it more than optimum, to keep my vision focused on anything but the monstrosity in front of me. It is difficult to drive, even at the slug’s pace of 45 miles an hour, when you do not want to look at the object directly in front of you.
A sign floated by on the right, that warned that radar was used to detect those who chose to exceed the speed limit. I even tried to draw some measure of comfort that I would not be receiving any tickets for excessive speed on this particular trip. It was of little consolation, because the meter inside my brain, had just gone into the red. This particular shade of red, was blood-colored.
I determined that I would have to take a peek around the left, to see if I was lucky enough to get a break in the oncoming traffic. “I’ll just ease my way to the left here, slowly, and whoa! Bad time for you to ease left too. Gotta watch this bozo closely, cause he isn’t following the same script that I am.”
As we ambled along, the temperature inside the vehicle far exceeding that, which was outside, the bits and pieces of hay continued to whip into and past my windshield, further irritating my already raw nerves. My hands tightened their grip on the wheel. “This is so retarded. This jaboney is rocking my world, and I gotta say, this ain’t working for me. Time to do something about it.”
Again I eased to the left; again, he did also. How could he know when I went left, if he couldn’t see me? This maniac was clairvoyantly evil. Now we were down to forty, when he jerked back to the right. Barreling at me, going hella faster than I, was a gasoline tanker. Screaming incoherently, I jerked the wheel to the right, and my last epic carnival ride began. Even at forty miles an hour, a sharp enough jerk of the wheel is going to produce an instantaneous technical problem, of immeasurable difficulty.
I sailed off the highway, summersaulting merrily into a three hundred-year-old live oak tree, in a manner that would leave my little sportster, a crumpled, twisted mass of fiber glass and steel, with little remaining of me at all, except for my stubbornness. Plenty of that to go around, even if the rest of me went up in smoke. That’s too bad because I won’t need it anymore.
Down the highway continued the hay-laden old pickup truck, seemingly oblivious to the destruction behind him, his scythe conveniently mounted in the easy-rider-rifle rack in the window behind him. The driver, garbed in black, had a pleasant smile on his skeletal face.