Herald and Journal, Aug. 2, 1999

Tawanda! I'm behind the wheel


Is it possible that all these hot, steamy days are getting to my brain?

I'm beginning to experience the unmistakable signs of road rage. Or could it be the combination of the non-stop heat and humidity, and the fools I have to put up with on the drive home from work?

Never mind the insanity of the 20-mile drive to work, heading east on Highway 12 through Long Lake. Anyone who drives that stretch knows how frustrating it can be to get tied up there and inch along at a snail's pace.

Driving it in the morning is bad enough. I always try to give myself an hour of driving time. This gives me a little breathing room if traffic is backed up. When the cars bunch up in front of you as you head east out of Maple Plain, you know you're in for a long, torturous drive.

Driving home is the real test, though. Usually, I'm a very calm person. It doesn't bother me if some impatient idiot flies by me and slips into the space between me and the car ahead.

I must admit I'm sometimes startled by the small space they manage to squeeze into at 75 miles an hour.

Am I breaking the speed limit? You have to go that fast to keep from being run off the road.

Tonight on the way home, I got really steamed. And it wasn't the 90-plus temperature and humidity that caused it. Well, maybe a little bit.

I was cruising along the westbound stretch of 394, a mile or so before it narrows down to Highway 12 through Long Lake. As usual, I was going slightly over the speed limit. The guy who had been riding my bumper with his van decided he should pull around and pass me on the right.

Fine, I didn't feel the need to step on the gas and get into a speed duel with him. The stoplight up ahead was red. Everyone slowed to a stop in a single line in the left lane. There were probably about 25 cars between me and the stoplight.

The two lanes merge into one as you get closer to the light. Inevitably, some inconsiderate boobs will fly by the stopped line of cars, turn on their blinker, and crowd in front of one of the cars that has been patiently waiting in line.

The fool in front of me, who seconds before had been in such a frenzy to pass me, decided to let four cars and a truck in front of him. Where was his big hurry now?

As I sat there watching with steam coming out of my ears, I had this overwhelming urge to repeatedly crash my car into the back of his van.

If I didn't care about my car, I probably would have done it. Too bad I don't drive some big, old, rust-bucket to work. I could use it as a battering ram. I doubt if it would be worth the increased insurance, but it might make me feel a whole lot better. Until the police came.

We finally cleared the light. The endless line of vehicles snaked its way through Long Lake. Creeping along, I visualized the classic scene from the movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes."

Kathy Bates plays a middle-aged woman coping with life. There she sits in her car, waiting for someone to back their car out of a parking space so she can pull into it. Suddenly, two young women in a small car scoot into the space from the opposite direction.

She is incensed! She yells at the girls that they have taken her parking space.

As they are walking away from their car they reply, "Face it lady, we're younger and quicker!"

Kathy Bates suddenly gets this evil smile on her face. She backs her car up and rams it repeatedly into the rear of their parked car. Each time she backs up and crashes into it, she shrieks, "Tawanda!" her battle cry of defiance.

When the two smart alecs realize what's happening, they run back to their car in disbelief, yelling something like, "Lady, are you crazy?"

Kathy Bates, next line is priceless. "Face it, girls. I'm older and I have more insurance."

It just gladdens my heart to think of it.

So tonight, you will not find me on West 394 and Highway 12 through Long Lake.

Tonight I will be driving my alternate route of Highway 55 and County Road 6 to Highway 12. Look out, fellow motorists. I'll be the one chugging along, trying to keep my cool.

If you happen to be in that area around 4:30 and you hear cries of "Tawanda!" take cover.

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