Sunlight trickled across cracked glass. Fragments of broken concrete echoed across dented metal. Newspapers whipped through the air like chips of plastic blown away. Objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear, slamming into view. Paper cutouts fall across white chalk, lines never to be crossed, but the Me Firsts want to rule the world.
I slipped across Route 17 with ease. The morning rush hour was thick but flowing nicely. Humorous bumper stickers tickled my funny bone. Political statements were met with a shake of the head. Baby on Board met the stick figures of family painted against the back window. Music blared, chased by the beeping horns, and signals flashed. Passing cars displayed their battle scars, and mine paled in comparison to some of theirs. But the battlefield was approaching, and the next match could meet me at the next turn.
He was inches away from my bumper. He swayed closer to the double yellow lines, threatening to cross the divide. His lights flashed, but his brights failed to blind me. His head rested against fist, frustrated that I was doing the speed, but it was a one-way road that wound around the mountain. But would he play Russian Roulette, crossing into the opposite traffic lane just to pass me by?
We approached the traffic circle. I signaled, and he remained close behind. As the road split into two, he floored it, cutting me off. He failed to notice the car behind us. It was a state trooper, and he gave pursuit. And as I continued on to work, I found the driver waiting for his ticket, but I had to remember. The cops won’t always be around, but the Me Firsts will be waiting.
The drive home was always eventful. I tried to avoid the left lane until the split, but some drivers just don’t let you in. They have to be first. They have to have their way. If they get their way, you wind up on some road going the wrong way and praying that you can turn around. If you cut them off, they throw a tantrum, flashing their lights and pounding their horns, but at least, you’re on the right road heading home. But don’t be surprised if they fly off into the other lane and come back around, cutting you off. They have to be first. They have to be a Me First.
I headed out to Long Island over the weekend. The ride over the Tappan Zee Bridge was uneventful. I relaxed in the driver seat, tapping my fingers to the beat of New York, 103.5. It was a clear sky, and the scenery was decorated with fall. I remained in the middle lane, graced by trucks that couldn’t force me aside. My eyes caught sight of the wounded that passed me by. My hands curled around the steering wheel, and I waited. Long Island was notorious for its drivers and their road rage, but the tango of the road rage drivers has found home anywhere, any time that you get into a car.
Parkways, expressways, thruways, bridges, tunnels, and local routes have become haven to the Me Firsts. If you’re in the left lane, then prepare to do battle. They will press against your rear, threatening to collide. Their lights will flash, and the brights will shine. Blaring horns will deafen your ears, and inaudible words will try to break your concentration. Engines roar as they go warp speed, cutting you off and nearly clipping the front of your car. If you’re in the right lane, don’t believe that you are sitting on the sidelines. If they want the space that you are occupying, their cars will cross that line, kissing metal against metal, and if you speed up, so will they. If you cut them off to give them what they want, they may give chase, and then it is a game of Tag, you’re it until one of you turns away. Never think for a moment that you are safe, and never panic. One hesitation is all that it takes to get into an accident.
I believed that the roadways in town were safe. I always stopped at the flashing yellow light, knowing that I did not have the right of way. Today was different. My brothers and I rode past local stores, enjoying conversation, and my foot tapped the brake, allowing a car at the flashing yellow light to go ahead. I continued on, but so did the other driver at the flashing yellow light. My brothers screamed, and I turned. His car braked inches away from the driver-side door, and he cursed at me when I had the right of way. But he had to be first. He had to be first, whether putting his life, his kid’s life, or me and my family on the line. He had to be a Me First.
I left home later that night. I liked driving around town in the dark. Moonlight ran across the waters of the local lake. An island posed for perfection. Trees whispered of country, and I breathed in the air, savoring its peace. I paused at the yield sign. No cars in sight, so I went. Something black, large appeared, blinding me with brights, but nobody should have been there. The roadway was clear, but the sense of danger screamed in the back of my mind. And I slammed on the gas, nearly escaping the vehicle that could have easily taken my life. Why? Because he had to be first? His need for speed was greater than caution, and his foot was made out of lead. And he could’ve killed me, but thank God, I’m still alive.
There is no such thing as a safe roadway. There is no such thing as a simple errand, going to the grocery store, or getting gas. They’re out there, waiting. I have lost count of the passing vehicles displaying their battle wounds. I have lost count of the speed demons that have cut me off. I have lost count of those diving into the opposite traffic lanes, spinning the revolver of Russian Roulette, but they shall not pass. I will not play their game. They can’t be first. They can’t be a Me First, but the Me Firsts want to rule this world. And we can’t let them.