Working Stiff

April 5, 2015

 

WORKING STIFF

 

I was watching him through my side and rear view mirrors. He weaved dangerously through the traffic, his bright red 2014 Camaro hugging too close to the bumpers of those in front of him as he waited for an opening to move left and right. No turn signal, no warnings for the people around him. He gave them no choice but to step on their brakes to give his car the room it demands.

He is going to die today was all I can think as I watched the car quickly and without warning swerve into the adjacent lane once again. He ended up two cars directly in front of me.

Traffic slowed to 25 miles an hour and even without seeing his face, I felt his impatience. As soon as we pass the construction sign, he swerved onto the shoulder and accelerated to his former speed, passing his slow-moving obstacles.

I'm in no rush myself. Long ago I realized that nothing really important happens until I get where I am going. That's one of the advantages of working solo. Given that conclusion and the fact that I don’t really worry about money, I can honestly say that I enjoy my job better than I did before the revelation. Instead of racing like that guy, I have the ability to see the bigger picture in all things I do.

I drive a deep purple 1982 hearse for the novelty of it. I had red and orange flames placed on the hood and sides as a joke and maybe to attract a little attention. The truth is, no one ever seems to notice me. They're generally distracted by expensive stretch Hummers, concept cars and high end German imports that are a mainstay of the roads in L.A.. As colorful and unusual as my car is, it hardly attracts any attention. But that's okay...I like it and it is highly functional.

The slowed traffic started moving again. I saw a stretch of highway damaged metal side rail, arbitrarily colored with swashes of paint scraped from the cars that have sideswiped them. They tell the stories of drivers distracted by texting, phone conversations or arguing children in their back seats. But looked at in another way, the side rails are more than a functional structure. They are works of art, formed and deformed by unplanned moments and movements. They could never be exactly duplicated much like two snowflakes could never duplicate one another. Each is unique and beautiful in its own way.

Just a few minutes later, I found my speedy friend’s car stopped on the shoulder, the result of colliding head on with a construction vehicle. His car looked as though the front end had exploded, spewing debris all around. The car had shed its outside panels like a snake’s skin, exposing a crumpled metal frame. Bits of windshield safety glass reflected sunlight like a grade school glitter project but telling a more ominous rstory.

I pulled my car just ahead of Mr. Speedy’s and over onto the same shoulder. I couldn’t believe that anyone could survive a wreck like this but I needed to be sure.

There hadn’t been time for police or fire or emergency care to respond, but a few good Samaritans were there. One was bent at the waist, throwing up in the grass to the side. Another had his cell phone to one ear and his hand blocking the other, facing away from the accident. Traffic continued past the scene, with occupants visible gawking through the windows and shaking their heads.

The driver, the man who I assumed was the driver given the deep cuts on his face and blood smeared clothing, stood alone looking dazed. I extend a hand. “Let me help you.” He's visibly shaken but put his bloody hand in mine. I walked him over to my car. He looked at it, puzzled by the make and color scheme, but then gave a small smile.

I held the car passenger door open as he carefully lowered himself into the seat. “Don’t worry about the blood. I can get the seat cleaned later. And don’t forget your seat belt,” I grin at my little joke; he grins back and attaches the buckle. I put on my turn signal and merge easily into the traffic.

 

“Good thing you happened along,” were his first words to me. He put down the sun visor as the sun glared directly into the windshield, blinding us both temporarily. “How far do we have to go?” he asked.

“Not far. Just into that light up ahead.”

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