FOR the ultimate infuriating experience, nothing beats...

Salmagundi

August 12, 1992

FOR the ultimate infuriating experience, nothing beats crawling around the Beltway in 10-foot spurts only to discover that there's no road construction, no stalled car in the middle of the highway and no bad accident. You've just wasted an hour getting from I-95 to Frederick Road because somebody slowed down to see why a state trooper pulled over a Chevy van.

The lights on the police cruiser aren't flashing. The officer and the presumed van owner aren't arguing. There's no ambulance in sight, no flares, no glass on the road, not a scratch on the van.

In short, there's nothing interesting going on here. If this is anything more than a routine traffic stop, you wouldn't know it from where you sit.

But somebody saw a police car, and he was curious. He braked to see what was going on. Naturally, the woman behind him had to slow down. The guy behind her saw the driver in front craning for a look, so he craned, too. Pretty soon, everybody was braking and craning for a look at something that was nothing, and jTC everybody was a hour late for dinner.

Rubber-necking delays are nothing unusual around here. All over Baltimore, people seem to be fascinated by any activity, however mundane, on the side of the road. They're even fascinated if whatever's happening is happening across the median strip.

We complain all the time about how little time there is. We rush to work, and we rush home, ruing the empty hours spent getting from here to there.

Why make matters worse? If we're going to have to sit in traffic, let it be for a more important reason than idle curiosity in insignificant occurances. We all have better places to go, and better things to do.

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