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Tom Cramer Headshot

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Halloween has passed. Daylight Savings Time is over. It's November, and everyone has lost their minds.

This past Saturday, I went to go get a haircut and do some shopping. Thirty minutes later, I was back at home with hair no shorter and fridge still bare, wondering if zombies can drive. The amount of traffic was startling; the skill level of drivers horrifying.

I took the "back way" to the barber, driving through neighborhoods and industrial parks, avoiding the main street. I had forgotten this route took me past the high school, which was a zoo at 20 minutes before kickoff of the football game. That was my fault; I should have known better and therefore I was patient while navigating past the school. I entered the parking lot to the strip mall where I get my hair cut, and immediately noticed many cars parked in front of the entrance. I drove past and peeked inside, seeing a full waiting room. Not wishing to spend at least 45 minutes waiting, I decided to focus on shopping. I pulled into the right lane of the four lane main street which leads past the stores, library and court house, two lanes in each direction. There is also a center or "suicide" lane to facilitate left turns, without stopping the traffic behind, available for use by cars traveling in either direction. Within seconds, a driver who no longer wanted to make a left turn, and swept across three lanes to make a right, cutting right in front of me. That was near miss number one.

Unsettled, I continued on my way, getting in the left lane to pass a 1964 Ford Galaxie driving at least 20 mph under the speed limit. The driver's blue hair, horn-rimmed glasses and death grip on the steering wheel led me to believe the car was purchased brand new in 1964, when she was 50-years-old. At least she stayed in her lane.

I was now behind one of those pickup trucks that had over sized wheels and tires, and a lift-kit that made it so tall only Paul Bunyan could get behind the steering wheel without the aid of an extension ladder. This left me at eye-level to an exhaust pipe that was designed to sound like a Harley Davidson, because of course if you failed to see the 17 foot tall truck, the driver was determined that you would hear it. As I was imagining the owner was only 5' 6" with a Napoleon complex, he jerked the steering wheel to get in the right lane, revealing a long line of cars at a standstill. I slammed on the brakes, coming to rest about an inch short of the vehicle in front of me. Someone seven cars ahead failed to grasp the concept of the center turning lane, and just stopped in the left lane, apparently enthralled by a store offering 75 percent off on Halloween costumes. That was near miss number two.

Since I had only been on this main street for approximately 90 seconds, I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm for shopping. There was only one store I needed to visit before getting off of "white knuckle avenue." It was up ahead on the left, just after a slight dip in the road that momentarily made it hard to see oncoming traffic. It appeared that I may be lucky, catching a break in traffic that would allow me to make the left turn easily. That was only an illusion; when the street returned to normal elevation I saw an approaching wall of traffic resembling a military invasion. Oh well, this store had something I couldn't easily find. I figured I would just get that one item, and then do the rest of my shopping elsewhere.

Although the store was still a bit further ahead, I could see cars struggling to enter and exit an already full parking lot. Horns were blaring and forearms were extended out of car windows, fists shaking. I hesitated, but again thought it best just to get it over with. As I prepared to enter the suicide lane and wait for the 4,000 cars to pass, an oncoming car created a more convenient use for this turning lane. He swerved into the center and floored it, turning it into his own private passing lane and speeding past me. Had I entered at my earliest opportunity, I would definitely be in a hospital right now. That was the third and final near miss. I went home, and opened a beer.

We all have stress and many things to do, more so in preparation for the holidays, but let's try not to kill each other, OK?