At about 8 hours into a fairly typical Saturday night shift in downtown Washington - a shift that, of course, had already included a bunch of drunks, the existence of a new rule from the DC Police that blocked Ubers and Lyfts from blocking the bike lanes. (Since the bike lanes are outside the parking spots on a street, this means either parking in the middle of the travel lane or getting your ride to find you in the first semi-legal space you can find. The only funny part about all this was the first policeman who screamed—literally screamed—at me about it at 10p on a Friday ran into me again at 3am that Saturday. He said the same thing (although there aren’t a lot of bikers around at 3am) but he finished with a classic:
“You guys are such a pain in my ass! Why don’t you find another location and take up a new vocation?”
I’d never even seen this guy in the 3900 night rides I’ve had down there so I guess he was new and just easily irritated. What struck me—as I was nodding furiously at everything he said—was that he thought that this was a “vocation.”
'Sure, officer, I’m 67 years old. I don’t have enough money to pay the mortgage because I paid for my kids’ colleges. So, I drive three or four nights a week when I’m really trying to write more novels. You really think I went out LOOKING for a job that pays minimum wage to drive all night on the world’s lumpiest streets?’
I wonder what he says to garbage truck workers who get in his way? Or panhandlers? “Got any spare change” could be a vocation, I suppose.
Anyhow, all this has little or nothing to do with the main story. I’d ended going waaaay out into the sticks with a couple of rides with nice people and finally picked up a foursome of Hispanic kids who were headed down the 45 minute ride to stand in line at a club downtown. I gave out hand warmers (we’re right between cool water and hot hands—it’s a seasonal thing) and gave them access to my Bluetooth. I’ve found that tuning them into the stereo is a lot easier than an aux cord once you figure out how to do it.
So, we were heading downtown with all six speakers and two amplifiers pounding out…..well, someone very loud and fast. All I know was that it beat the 3 hours of “trap music” I’d enjoyed several weeks before. That almost had me cutting my head off with the power windows.
About halfway to downtown, we got onto Interstate 270 which splits off from the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Somerset (the Land of A Thousand Motels) and splits north and south right before it ends at the Washington Beltway. Yes, it splits. Cars moving at a nice 75 mph come howling down to a very long split with signs everywhere and either head for the fleshpots of Virginia or the fleshpots of College Park. (I wouldn’t know a fleshpot if I tripped over it.)
Yes, most of the cars are doing 75mph but I’m a conservative guy and locked it in on 60 with cruise control. The chatter was constant between the 4 kids and the rear speakers were shaking the whole car (I’m sneaky and move the fader to the rear when the customer has control).
Then , this happened:
Yes, some out-of-state moron had managed to ignore 3 MILES of signs and at least a half mile of solid dividing line and was stopped completely in the fast lane to Virginia. I had 1050p on the dash cam but I still couldn’t read his plate or he’d be getting a visit from the local constabulary. Of course on that road at night, rear lights with no brake lights or flashers is just the guy driving in front of you—he came up at me at, well 59 mph. Damn, that’s fast.
The reaction was completely reflex. I think it came from my lower spine and my brain never got involved. I hit the brakes—which are ABS—and then, I came up off them so I could steer. Most people tend to forget that ABS brakes stop you in a straight line and a straight line is very seldom what you want in an accident situation. As soon as I bled off 20 mph or so, I swerved right and immediately back left to stay in the lane. I didn’t think there was someone right to my right side but I sure couldn’t look to see so I tried really hard to stay in the lane.
Moron face finally realizes that he’s about to get dropkicked into the Montgomery Mall (about a half-mile ahead) and hit the gas and the brakes at the same time and moved into the median WHERE HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I will testify in court that the high-pitched scream was the young lady next to me. I wouldn’t scream that high—it would be lower and with real cuss words. The rest of the ride was calm—except I took three wrong turns to get them to their club and then pulled across the street and parked…to get the film out of the camera.
Sure, get the film. That was it.
Then, I found that I’d lost my wallet somewhere and spent two hours backtracking in a useless attempt to find it. I told my wife that Someone might be telling me that Uber was Over.
- Never go for speed. Just mosey along.
- Never stop watching everywhere. Idiots are out there trying to kill you.
- Keep the brakes fixed. I never have a problem with tires since DC has eaten 12 in 2 years.
- Don’t stay on the brakes if you have a chance. Back off until you have some turning adhesion and get out of the way of anyone who’s behind you. Let him hit the moron while you are safely off to the side.
- Turn off as many automatic self-driving gizmos as you can. An automatic stopping computer would have been fighting me all the way.