The morning race across 99W

Sunny morning. Radio might be on. Sunglasses are on, depending on whether or not I was lazy and wore my glasses instead of contacts when I got dressed. My car’s air system is set to recirculate so I don’t gag from breathing in the cloud of surrounding fumes. I stare at my hands where they grip the wheel, and absentmindedly wonder how dirty it is, and whether I cleaned it recently. Funny how it was painfully cold to the touch when I first got in, but now it’s nice and warm from my eager hands. I’m at the front of the line, facing a red light, part of a rumbling row of metal and tires and loudness that goes over the tracks and straight back half a mile beyond the elementary school.  It’s the usual race. Kids have been safely delivered. People want to get home, or to work, or to the store, or to their stove that they just remembered they left on. There is no turn signal for this intersection. We are all at the mercy of the unforgiving stream of oncoming traffic. Heaven help the poor soul who took the wrong road and unsuspectingly found themselves a part of our morning traffic ritual. I peer across the intersection at the cars piling at the bottom of the hill, and count cars.  There are usually about a million. A huge black Dodge truck is in front, so it’s hard to see how many are stacked behind his giant frame. I silently curse the existence of large vehicles. I catch the driver staring at me balefully. I ignore him and continue counting. It looks like I might get a break after the 4th car. I squint upwards (lazy day, no sunglasses), imagining I have the telekinetic power to make the light change. “That would be so freakin’ cool,” I think to myself, distracted for a few seconds as I imagine all the ways I could be amazing. After what seems like an eternity, the light switches. Hallelujah. “Quick, go!” I yell at the oncoming cars in my mind “before more cars come up over that hill!” The light is green, green means go, but I can’t go. The humanity! I swear I hear an engine rev behind me. I picture a business woman in an SUV, late for a super important meeting of course, attempting to intimidate me with the size and color of her vehicle.  Lime green? Really? I look straight ahead. Sometimes, at the head of the line, the car across from me is turning the opposite way. Which works perfectly, if 1) they have their blinker on so I can be prepared to go and 2) we go at the exact same time. Seems simple, right? Well, people forget that life can be simple. They forget to use their blinker. They decide to be nervous turning. Cars honk. And, today there is no car turning anyway, no lucky break. It is all oncoming traffic, going straight past me in a wall of impassable annoyance. I inch into the intersection and wait, with my foot hovering tensely over the gas pedal. Mini cooper, truck, station wagon, minivan, minivan, cement truck…I ponder my existence…another minivan, log truck (seriously, people?!), minivan again…the light turns yellow, there’s a break, and I gun it. Freedom! Nothing in my way! I can go faster than 2mph! 99W is finally all mine.

Well, for 4 minutes anyway, until I get to Walnut Blvd.

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