Here in Leveyland, we've chronicled many death-defying acts seen on our highways over the years. Acts like reading or applying makeup while you drive. Acts like a driver changing places with a passenger without bothering to stop first. And other stuff right out of a Grade B demolition derby.
But now arrives word of two other acts that even Barnum & Bailey would reject. The first we'll call Morning Beer.
If that sounds like an oxymoron, I fully understand. I can't even think about alcohol until lunchtime, if then. But on the Capital Beltway, according to Karolyn J. Hutchinson of Springfield, morning commuters swig from beer cans all the time.
Usually, Karolyn reports, they are males between the ages of 17 and 32 who are driving trucks. "They have a half-lit Marlboro hanging off their lower lip and a Budweiser in one hand," Karolyn says. If you stare at them disapprovingly, they will shoot you a look that says, "Lady, I'm being cool, and if you don't like it, you can lump it."
We shouldn't be naive about Morning Beer. Drivers have this habit all over the country, not just in Maryland and Virginia. The practice is especially well entrenched in the Southwest, where people have been known to describe the travel time between Oklahoma City and Tulsa as "two-and- a-half." They're talking about eight-ounce cans of brew, not hours.
Still, one piece of obviousness needs noting. He who drinks while he drives is risking his own life and the lives of all those around him. A beer at 8 a.m. may be bracing -- but smacking into an abutment is pretty bracing, too.
The second practice is probably well-entrenched elsewhere, too -- although I pray it isn't.
Before I describe it, a warning to the young and the squeamish. Not everyone will want to read the following, especially at the breakfast table. So I hereby hold up a flag that says: PG For Parental Guidance. You may want to skip the next five paragraphs.
Word of this highway epic comes from a woman who lives and works in Woodbridge. As part of her job, she drives samples down to Dale City all the time. She does it in her van, via Interstate 95.
The van's driver's seat puts her about three feet above every car driver on the road -- and gives her a good full-body of view of them. The woman tells me that quite often, a man in a car will pull abreast of the van. He will glance over at her. As soon as he notices that she's a pretty woman in her late twenties, he will match her speed exactly, so that his torso remains within easy view. And he will begin to practice a certain physical activity.
If you don't know which one, you're probably better off not knowing. If you do know, you will understand what the woman told me. She described her reaction to the physical activity as, "Yukkkkkkkkkk!" The last consonant rang in my ear for about 20 seconds.
Was this a one-time-only occurrence? "I wish it were," the woman told me. "But it has happened to me at least five or six times on I-95."
Makes you wish for a simple case of reading the sports section at 60 miles an hour, doesn't it? But no such luck. Our drivers expand the frontiers of dangerous and disgusting with each passing hour.
The Woodbridge van driver gets my total sympathy. The Silver Spring parker gets none.
SSP called me last Monday to wax venomous about a $60 fine with which she had been slapped the night before. Seems she had been hunting for a parking space near Georgia Avenue and Spring Street. There were no legal spaces, and she was already late. So she pulled into the lot of a nearby business, which was obviously closed.
Yes, a sign was posted. It said, "NO PARKING -- ENFORCED 24 HOURS A DAY." But this was about 9 p.m. on a Sunday, so the sign couldn't mean it, could it?
The woman came back for her car about half an hour after she had left it. No car. She called the police to report it stolen. A desk officer checked a list and informed the woman that the car had been taken away by hook, not by crook. When the woman reached the impoundment lot, she was told that she could reclaim her car only if she paid $60 in cash. No checks. No credit cards.
The woman was fuming about "ripoffs" and spouting about "unfairness" when I broke in.
"Did you see the sign?" I inquired.
"Of course I saw the sign," the woman said.
"Did you think the sign was kidding?"
"Well, I thought for one car, on a Sunday night, they wouldn't mind," the woman said.
Do I even need to point out that one exception can lead to a dozen? Do I even need to point out that the owner of a private lot has a perfect right to tow cars off of it? Do I even need to ask how the woman would have felt if it had been her lot?
The sign at the lot should be amended. It should read: "NO PARKING AND NO CROCODILE TEARS -- ENFORCED 24 HOURS A DAY."