Have you noticed how many flashing lights are on modern police cars? I hadn’t until a recent late night when the rear window of my car was suddenly filled with an IMAX screen of blue.
It was well past midnight; I was going the speed limit – in the slow lane – and wasn’t firing at road signs. So I wasn’t sure why I had been pulled over.
The young officer asked to see my license. I guess he saw my puzzled look because he said, “You were hugging that fog line a little close back there.”
It took me a second to understand what he meant. Then I got it. The solid white lines that mark the outside edge of most highways today must be called “fog lines” because they make it easy to see where the pavement ends on a foggy – or rainy or simply dark – night. They weren’t around when I was a kid, and they are the best highway-safety improvement I can think of.
I wanted to say thanks for teaching me a new expression, but I figured the last thing an officer wants to hear late at night is an enthusiasm for words.
He asked where I was coming from, and I told him the newspaper. He must have seen my lunch bucket on the front seat and newspapers scattered throughout the car because he handed back my license and said, “We get a lot of drunks on this road late at night.”
I told him I knew that all too well. I didn’t tell him I was driving close to the right edge of the road because every night, as those drunks whiz by me, they pay little attention to the dotted line that separates our two lanes. I try to stay out of their way.
In fact, when the officer had started following me that night, I figured he was just another boisterous driver getting ready to whip around me.
He politely told me good night and went back to his car. I was glad he was on patrol but hoped he got around to stopping those drivers who pin me to the fog line every night.
Why do they do it? Alcohol sometimes. Stupidity others. Sometimes cars move too fast for safety; other times, too slowly.
A day or two earlier, for instance, I was in the fast lane, preparing to turn left up ahead. Behind me crept a minivan. As red lights turned green, I would proceed, because I learned long ago that green means go. The van, on the other hand, would sit there awhile, then crawl forward only after the cars behind it blew their horns.
At the next light, I saw why. The driver was leaning over the center console and lifting up forkful after forkful of some food. From the looks of her, I would guess it was banana pudding. More horns sounded, she licked the spoon and began crawling. The traffic stayed as clogged as her arteries were becoming.
And so it went. It was just a typical week on the roads. Maybe you encounter the same drivers. They’re the reason I appreciate that officer. And the reason I hug the fog lines like a drunk.