It’s dark o’clock and once again I am racing to work. After the past five years it has occurred to me that my very existence on planet earth is inextricably linked in every way to the I-10 highway. If I am not driving on it, stuck in one of its interminable traffic jams, preparing to slip on or off it, then somewhere in my not too distant future there is a guaranteed rekindling of my love hate relationship with this damned road.
This morning, like every bloody morning, there is yet another mystery object in the middle of the lane. It has becomes a quotidian distraction; a daily I-Spy of, “What the hell was that?” What could that square, metal, wooden, plastic (only the adjectives have been changed to protect the identity of the unknown object!) thing be in the middle of the road? Who lost it, do they know, and how did it happen?
I scream under bridges at the socially acceptable speed of 80mph, past where the cops normally wait in greedy anticipation. Men in perfectly pressed uniforms with departmental attitudes waiting to gouge cash from unwary drivers to benefit whichever municipality they protect and serve. Onwards and upwards, past where the speed cameras used to be, I stare into the floodlit path before me. My headlights burn out into the darkness lighting my way, guiding my manic passage from the West side of Phoenix towards down-town Chandler. Fifty two miles one way, now that’s a commute to be proud of! They still talk about and Hannibal and his trudge over the Alps but one day I, Colin James, consumer of the kilometers, will be remembered.
Just ahead of my headlights I see something in the road, adjust to avoid and glide around what appears to be a white cool box. There it lays, filled with lovingly made egg mayonnaise sandwiches, complete with a slice of grandmas apple pie. A perfect lunch transformed into a danger to oncoming traffic. Shipping forecasts sputter through static on short wave radios warning fisherman floating off the Dogger Bank to avoid the detritus lying forgotten in the middle of the I-10. Like the space shuttle firing retro-rockets to avoid space junk, I tilt my wheel and speed safely passed.
Unable to avoid the cooler Captain Ahab pulled over onto the hard shoulder
One sees all manner of discarded ephemera; if it isn’t coolers filled with Mexican delicacies then its pieces of furniture, stained mattresses, and dead dogs. The most ominous object to date was a full sized grill propped up on one wheel in the middle of the H.O.V. lane, which god only knows how I avoided! Every day I see trucks piloted by our southern cousins, filled with the flotsam and jetsam of daily life. Serious sun baked faces transporting families from one mail drop to the next.
How they manage to get everything on board the flat bed of a beaten and busted 1980s Ford truck I will never know. One has to understand the eye-bending complexities of an Escher painting, or comprehend a Rubik’s cube combination to appreciate the stacked perfection of their precious cargoes. Everything is slotted perfectly together; the fridge, the bed, the mismatched lamps and the world’s largest collection of plastic toys.
The Hernadez family had remembered to pack everything except the family dog.
People murmur Edison’s name with reverence however the inventor of the elasticated bungee cord deserves far greater recognition. Those multi colored elastic ropes that tether life and soul to speeding vehicles; more tenacous than Hispanic familial bond.
Although I am always amazed by the collection and variety of objects that carpet the freeway, one question irks me.
WHO PICKS THIS STUFF UP?
On my nightly return journey, my own personal retreat from Moscow, the items are never there. Who collects discarded mattresses, builders hard hats, plastic crap and discarded grills?Is there a lone motorist with an unladen truck trolling the road like an anxious beach comber in search of an empty bottle? Dare I suggest alien abduction?
Clearly the reports of scantily clad aliens from the pathetic wankers club was a cry for help…
I stare out the window as the white of the plastic cooler races by, quickly looking into my rear view mirror to catch the look of horror of the driver in the vehicle behind me. A grown up version of death race 2000 and so far I still have three lives left and a telephone call. The race continues….