Trafficking in lunacy

Kevin Cowherd

February 05, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

A man of my age (41) and emotional health (fragile) has all he can do to get through each day without dissolving into a crying jag every five minutes or otherwise bugging out.

So I don't need any additional stress in my life.

I don't need any more psychos, losers or misfits making things any harder than they have to be.

I especially don't need to see a woman brushing her teeth as she negotiates her car next to mine in rush-hour traffic, which we will get to in a moment. Please . . . don't rush me.

Actually, that was not the craziest thing I've seen someone do behind the wheel. One time I actually saw a man . . . well, we should start at the beginning for this one.

The whole ugly incident began last year when I was driving north on I-95 through Delaware.

(Delaware is a wonderful state. What makes it especially wonderful is that it is a very tiny state, which keeps the psycho population at a tolerable level.

(I might move there when I retire. Which could be any day now, judging by the way things are going.)

Anyway, I was driving along in my usual cautious manner -- speedometer glued at 55, hands at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions on the steering wheel -- when I noticed a mini-van up ahead with Florida license plates.

ZTC What caught my eye was that the van was weaving from one side of the lane to the other. Naturally this did not surprise me, not in this day and age.

I figured the driver was probably shot-gunning a Coors or jabbing a syringe into one arm.

Or I figured there was some bug-eyed freak in a turban holding a gun to the driver's head, which would understandably account for a lapse in concentration.

Are you kidding? This is the 1990s, for God's sake. You see that sort of stuff on the way to church Sunday morning.

Anyway, a minute or two later, we drew up alongside the van. And despite my better judgment (and the very real threat of gunfire erupting from this vehicle) I glanced over at the driver.

And the driver was . . . well, I nearly drove off the road when I saw this. The driver was playing with an Etch-a-Sketch!

Which was bad enough, of course. But the woman in the passenger seat -- wife? girlfriend? fellow Percodan abuser? -- was smiling vacantly and acting as if this was the most normal thing in the world.

Well. My first instinct was to beep the horn and roll down the window and yell something to this psycho.

But then I thought: If this guy is crazy enough to use an Etch-a-Sketch while he drives, there's no telling what he'll do if I yell at him. He might start foaming at the mouth or barking like a dog.

Or he might really flip out and jerk the wheel violently and ram me.

So instead I gunned the accelerator, attempting to put as much distance as I could between me and this psycho.

I didn't want to be anywhere around when, absorbed in drawing a nifty picture of a barn or whatever, he plowed into a chemical truck, igniting a towering fireball and releasing a cloud of deadly methane that would shut down the highway for hours and have emergency crews in Mylex suits and gas masks cleaning up the mess.

Look, I have seen people do some crazy stuff behind the wheel. I've seen them put on makeup, eat Buffalo wings, clip their fingernails. A friend of mine swears he saw a woman reading People while roaring through a busy intersection.

But the nut with the Etch-a-Sketch . . . that was taking lunacy to a whole different level.

So was the woman brushing her teeth behind the wheel. I spotted her around 8:30 one morning on the Beltway. She was doing about 60, with one hand on the wheel of her Chrysler and the other hand furiously jabbing a toothbrush into her mouth.

At first I thought: OK, it's early. You're seeing things. Hell, you haven't even had a cup of coffee yet.

But when I looked over again, sure enough, the woman was brushing her teeth! And checking the results in her rear-view mirror.

Dispelling the notion that she had totally lost touch with reality, she would, on occasion, glance at the road, as if thinking: "Oh, that's right . . . we're in traffic."

Well. All sorts of questions run through your mind after seeing something like this. There is, for example, the whole issue of where exactly does she spit?

L Which, quite frankly, I would prefer not to get into at all.

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