Despite good planning, there are times when we are forced onto Route 7 towards Burlington. We don’t want to drive to Burlington but we often need something besides a box of beads, hippy skirts, cow paintings or a balsam scented coffee mug.
Route 7 is an unfortunate highway, if you can call it a highway. There are pot holes, frost heaves, blind curves, and insufficient shoulder lanes, not to mention speed traps just south of Shelburne and north of Ferrisburg, the only two areas of the route wide enough to maneuver without white knuckles.
Nonetheless, I find that the drive to Burlington is more hazardous to my mental health than my physical survival because no one seems to know how to drive on Route 7 except me.
I do not like to think of myself as the kind of person who cares about being ten or fifteen minutes behind schedule, but Route 7 frustration is not about time. It’s about the Selfish Slobs, native or tourist, who don’t drive at the proper speed. I’m in no hurry, but it is a matter of principal that I am held up behind a Lame-Brain who cannot maintain the perfect speed.
And there is a perfect speed. It is the speed at which I am driving.
Let’s say the speed limit is 50. A good driver like me will go 55, at least. Lousy drivers will hold to 50, period, rain or shine. You and I both know that you cannot pass a car that is going 50 in a 50 zone. It doesn’t make sense and therein lay the danger. Many clowns will give it a try. To get past the Idiot Savant who is forcing you to take this risk, you must floor the pedal to 80 and maintain that speed for at least 30 seconds before a Mack Truck comes at you.
The setting of speed limits is a technical science backed by years of study by the State Department of Transportation. They have spent millions of dollars researching several fundamental concepts. It has been found, for example, that lowering the speed limit does not decrease accident rates or increase safety and that driving too slowly can cause as many accidents as driving too fast. Statistics reveal that it’s those Slow Farts who travel at erratic speeds, “the speed differential”, that are most dangerous on the highway. If I can get a ticket for going 50 in a 25 zone, it is only fair that someone else get a ticket for going 25 in a 50 zone because these Bird Brains turn a simple trip to Burlington into a variation of the game ‘Chicken’.
For example, there’s some No Neck in a pick-up truck whose fat head is barely visible above the steering wheel. He is often eating a grinder with his left hand and/or choking his wife with his right hand as he steers with his knees. He limps along at a steady pace of 30 in all speed zones, except in rare places where you might be able to pass him. He then speeds up to 50. You are forced to pass him, on the right, and you are pulled over for a ticket.
I enjoy being stopped by the police on Route 7. I actually count on it because deep down inside the cop knows that anyone on Route 7, in their right mind, will speed or take certain liberties when pressed.
The first thing I say to a policeman is, “You’re right, right, right. I was speeding.” He’ll say, most politely “Well, Ma’am, you did pass that vehicle on the right and you were going 55 in a 40 MPH zone” and I’ll reply “It was worth it. Please, give me a ticket.”
If you are released by the policeman, you invariably come up behind another blockade, for example, a school bus or a farmer on a manure spreader. This is a worst-case scenario. You cannot indulge yourself in any emotion except reverence. It is very difficult, moving the mind from rage to reverence under the most ideal conditions, for example, church, but in this case you are literally following the next Greatest Generation, or, in the case of the farmer, your bread and butter.
You’re stuck now and slow to a snail’s pace but you must force a grin because the farmer is checking you out in his rear view mirror. You give him the peace sign, praying that he will pull over and let you pass. He doesn’t and why should he? He is in the middle of a critical business issue relating to plants that provide the foundation of your food chain.
Meanwhile, a less understanding Clodhopper comes up behind you. He is mouthing obscenities worse than the ones in your head. In revolt, you slow down and give the farmer wider berth while torturing the Dingbat riding your bumper. You pretend to gaze at the scenery in wonderment, grateful for a pause in your hectic schedule. Bored, you start to feel sorry for the Creep, especially if he or she is from out-of-state, because they are Prissy Pigs who don’t know a damn thing about farming, Vermont living or Zen Buddhism.
When the farmer finally turns off into a field and you are free and clear, finally, to drive at the perfect speed, you find that you are now driving about 5 mph slower than usual. Why?
You have given up. You’ve figured out that you are not going to get where you are going any sooner than you are going to get there. You make room for the Ignorant Dullard on your tail. You wave by the Poor Nincompoop who still believes there’s a quick way to get to Burlington.