On the Shoulder

(September 1998)  Whoever said the Kentucky Derby was the most exciting two minutes in sports has never traveled on Route 20 as a pedestrian. Granted, the majority of my walk to work is through the idyllic Village, but my office is about a quarter of a mile outside the Village gates, and the open road is undeniably thrilling.

Last week as I walked home, a man in a deep green Jeep Grand Cherokee was slowed by a car turning left into the gas station, and used the shoulder of the road to pass on the right without losing any speed. I was already there. While preparing to leap across the ditch, I tried to make eye contact, but he never saw me. He was on the phone.

Thursday on the way to work, it was foggy and in the distance I could see headlights on the shoulder, coming my way. They were not pulling back onto the road, but rather hanging tough with another pair of headlights alongside, neck and neck, racing towards the Village gates. I decided to watch this one from the Chevy dealer’s parking lot. Moments later a woman wearing boxy “cataract” sunglasses and peering intently over the top of the steering wheel roared by on the shoulder at 55 mph. A driving co-worker said she had passed at least five cars in the mile between Route 175 and the Village, probably wondering why no one else was taking advantage of the open lane.

I thought I’d seen it all, but no. On Friday, I was walking past the Chevy dealer, on the shoulder of the road, facing oncoming traffic, when I heard a noise behind me. I turned to see a car directly behind me, on the shoulder, honking now so I would get out of the way. It was a mechanic driving a new car with no license plates from the dealership to the car wash next door, not wanting to take the car onto the road. So he was driving the wrong way on the shoulder, and very annoyed with me for being in the way.

I have since dodged the dealer’s cars two more times, and also that of a man delivering newspapers to the mailboxes along the road, stuffing them into the boxes while seated at the wheel of his car. He too was very annoyed with me for delaying him, and muttered at me in frustration as he rolled past on his way to the next box.

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