Freeway Fright

I spend a lot of time on the Gulf Freeway (I45 south of Houston), with my sixty-mile round trip to work and back every day.  Nothing much surprises me.  I’m used to dodging impatient motorcycles, keeping my little Corolla out of the blind spots of passing tractor trailers, and marveling at the number of people talking on their cell phones.  If I could see the ones thumbing text messages into their phones instead of watching the road, I’d probably be afraid to go out there at all.

I’m used to seeing everything from fender benders to car fires along the way.  Shoes, lawn chairs, hub caps, and ironing boards (honest, I saw one this week) find their way onto the pavement.  Debris on the Houston freeway system on any given day might range from bales of newsprint to chunks of concrete.

This morning I had an experience that would have been unnerving if I’d had time to think about it.  Traffic was moving right along, maybe fifty miles an hour, not unusual for a Friday morning, when a carton came flying into my lane, right in front of me, from somewhere to my left.  A big carton, maybe four feet by two feet by two feet.  Blue and yellow, I think.

Nowhere to swerve–there were cars in the lanes to either side of me.  No time to stop–the cars behind me would have piled right into me.  Maybe my driver’s instincts told me, from the way the carton bounced across the road, that it was empty, but it didn’t much matter.  I didn’t have a choice.

I ran right over it.

A quick look in my rear view mirror showed me chunks of cardboard flying harmlessly (I hope) through the air and bouncing along the pavement behind me.  Empty box, all right.  It was only then that I thought of what might have happened if there had been anything substantial in that carton.

Every time I get stuck in slow traffic, edging past an accident or waiting for one to clear, I remind myself that I might be late, but I’m not standing on the side of the road staring at my wrecked car.  Or worse.  Far worse.  I just thank the traffic angels and wait my turn.

What have you run into–figuratively, I hope–on your favorite freeway lately?