Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vanpool: The Hard Yield

Mike is driving. I’m wearing my headphones.

When Jim drives, we talk. We have nice conversations and make fun of people on the road and in the vanpool.

When Mike drives, I wear my headphones and listen to Ron and Fez. Ron and Fez take me to a place outside of the vanpool where I can think of things other than death.

Every now and then at certain points in our travels I will pay attention because these are the points of possible death. These points of death are the Severn River Bridge, the six lane dash to the HOV lane, the forced merge at the end of the HOV lane, and the HARD YIELD.

The hard yield is easily the most frightening portion of our trip. This is an exit, which leads to an on ramp, which leads to the highway. When the exit hits the on ramp there is a yield but if there are cars coming you must stop. Since this yield is not perpendicular to the road, it confuses some drivers into thinking they don’t have to stop. Let me repeat this is not a merge lane. It is basically a stop sign unless nobody is coming.

We enter the exit lane and I immediately snap to attention. Luckily it is winter and I can clearly see through the forest to where the exit lane meets up with the on ramp. I see not one car, but dozens of cars on this on ramp, destined to meet up with us at the same time at the yield sign. I am not worried. Any sane person will softly push the brake at this time. I have nothing to worry about.

Mike guns the gas. Does Mike know something I don’t? Has he calculated this transaction in a different way using alien physics? In the next three seconds I think of dozens of things, starting with the structural integrity of the van, the fact that I am in the front passenger seat, who will die first, where will the van end up. I decide that if I don’t get killed in the collision (which will happen on the opposite end of the van then I am) we will more than likely end up on our side after crashing through the guardrail and down a few feet into a forest. Will the van blow up? How long will it take? Will I have to pull people from the wreckage? Can I lift 300 pounds?

As we approach the yield at (I shit you not) 60 miles per hour. I say in a perfectly calm voice,

“Watch out.”

Mike hits the brakes as we hit the yield line. As I predicted using rudimentary physics, the car on the on ramp is approximately 1 foot from our driver’s door, simultaneously honking his horn and hitting the gas and jerking his wheel to the left. In a split second (because of our slowing down from 60 to 50mph) our van’s front grill is about half a foot from the cars rear bumper. Luckily there are no more cars after that one.

“What an asshole!” Mike says, indicating the law abiding citizen immediately in front of us.

“Yeah,” I say as a small amount of adrenaline washes over me.

I turn my head to look out the back windows in order to help navigate to the HOV lane. As I turn, the owner of the van catches my eye. He looks scared. After all he has just seen the face of death.

“Thank you,” he says.

As we pull into the parking lot at the end of the trip, Mike says, “Well at least I got us here alive.”

Like lemmings, we leap from the vehicle.

No comments: