80 mph is fast

October 24th, 2002 • 3 min read #Journal #BestOf #Fix

I earned an important perspective on life yesterday.I picked up my car from Pep Boys and decided I would go looking for the hub cap (which I distinctly remember seeing roll off to the side of the road through my rear view mirror when my tire blew).

I drove by the spot and sure enough, it was in the "emergency lane" on the far left... right by the fast lane.

I figured I would pull over, run out real quickly, and grab my hubcap to save the $ that I would have to spend on a replacement.

Well, if you are familiar with the 2222/290/35/183 junction area in Austin, and I told you that my hubcap was located going north on I35, about 60 yards just after the onramp immediately after the 2222/35 intersection (you know, right by Pappadeaux and the Red Lion), you would appreciate the futility of my trying to merge over four lanes of 4:00 PM traffic in 60 yards to get close to my hubcap.

200 yards, is doable. Unfortunately that puts you 140 yards over your target.

In retrospect, I should have probably waited until there wasn't as much traffic or perhaps just chalked it up as a loss... but just HAD to prove a point.

I pulled over to the side of the road, 140 yards away from the hubcap, and turned on my hazard lights. Remember, this is the side of the highway by the fast lane on the left.

I exited my vehicle (on the HIGHWAY, mind you... by the FAST lane) and began my trek to retrieve my lost relic.

Some people bungee jump, others sky dive, and still others climb mount everest... Why go through all that trouble and expense to get the thrill and adrenaline rush of near-death experiences when you could just walk against 80+ MPH traffic roaring by less than 5 feet from where you are standing?

When objects weighing in the tons move past you at very fast speeds, I learned an interesting thing: The air turbulance attempts to knock you over as the object approaches, but then the vortex created BEHIND the object attempts to suck you in.

Very unpleasant. Especially when the semis passed by. I decided I needed to cling to the concrete barriers to maintain my footing.

Somewhat suprisingly, I didn't feel the need to return to my car- no, I guess Tuesday didn't knock any sense into me.

Nevertheless, I couldn't stop the morbid thoughts. I tried desperately to focus on just inching closer and closer to my destination, but my mind refused to ignore the sensation overload and danger impulses. I began to visualize what would happen if some teenager in a pickup truck decided to reach over to change the radio station from Gwen to Pink, allowing the truck to drift over just a little bit into the emergency lane, just as it was approaching where I was standing.


Oh the trouble it would cause in rush hour traffic. People would be staring at the red paint all over the pavement and would honk their horns and scream at the "stupids" who were moving so slowly ahead of them. And the next morning when they read about the guy wandering around on the freeway, they would wonder if he was suicidal, questioning his choice of how to end it all. That is, they would wonder until they read the part where the police found a hubcap, missing from the front right tire of the man's car parked 140 yards away.. and saw that the victim was struck precisely at the midpoint between the car and the hubcap... just one/fourth of the journey completed. Then they would call him stupid and say, "he got what he deserved."

And if it made the Internet rounds, then maybe wacky, morning radio teams all around the country would talk about it and they would all laugh and laugh at the Darwin Award recipient.

But I was lucky.

When I got back to my car, I finally examined the hubcap... It was broken, of course; still usable, but it was missing a chip and it was scratched up as if a mountain lion gave it a swipe or two.

It'll look just fine on my car, and it will remind me every time I get behind the wheel just how fast I'm going and how important it is to keep focused on where I'm headed...

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