In my current line of work, I spend a considerable amount of time behind the wheel and staring through a windshield. These days I do far more driving than I used to do back in my teaching days when I spent no fewer than 10 hours a day in the same room, Room 16, in an old high school building over in St. Marys, a building that no longer blocks the view of Skip Baughman Stadium from West South Street.
So, with more time on the road comes more of an opportunity to observe life at 55-to-70 miles per hour. First, I have an observation about many cars I see, one that may have occurred to many of you.
Pretty much every week I’ll see cars that pass me showing no back license plates, either a permanent plate or a temporary tag. I do know that a temp tag can be displayed in the rearview window if the car has been recently purchased. However, the tint of so many cars’ windows these days makes it impossible to even know if there’s a tag taped on the inside of the window much less expect anyone to read the tag. Heavily tinted cars have always annoyed me because I think it’s a deterrent to safe driving. As a driver, when I can’t see my fellow motorists and have no idea where their heads may be turned to provide an early indicator as to a lane change he or she has in mind, I think that’s dangerous.
The thought when I see these license plate-less cars often goes to one of my pet peeves. As a frequent traveler, I’m often in states that have long ago left behind the traditional toll booths with a worker inside extracting tariffs to drive on roads and have gone instead to banks of cameras suspended above the asphalt which snap photos of drivers’ plates so bills can be sent.
Now, as I have carped in the past, as a longtime annual payer of thousands of dollars in federal taxes, taxes paid early on a quarterly basis, I resent having to pay extra to traverse any road, be it one on terra firma or one suspended over water as the main component of a bridge anywhere in my country tis of thee!
Having always been a pay-as-you-go guy, back in the old days, as in pre-COVID times, toll-paying was slightly less annoying for me when I paid someone in a booth or threw a couple quarters into one of those baskets when no one was in the booth.
But the camera banks really make my blood boil. On a recent spring trip that Lady Jane and I took to Ocean City, Maryland, I drove under banks of cameras both in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Pennsylvania as of this writing has already billed me an aggravating couple dimes shy of 32 bucks for using their pavement, and I’m still waiting on that Maryland toll shoe to drop.
Whenever I see the heavy tint of windows, I always think that if I had such a vehicle and had a temp tag behind a smoked rear window, no photo would ever be able to pick up the tag’s number and no annoying toll charges would ever land in my mailbox. However, not one of the six or so cars I’ve purchased featured heavily tinted windows.
Now, as you can tell by my column’s headline, I haven’t really gotten to this week’s meat and potatoes, so I better get to it.
Recently, I was on I-75 headed south to one of my smaller accounts in Brown County, less than 40 miles from Cincinnati. I was in the left lane passing someone when suddenly a car came roaring up behind me so close that his bumper dipped below my rearview mirror while doing 70 miles an hour.
With another car in the right lane less than 10 feet ahead of the car I just passed, I stayed in the passing lane and sped up a bit to pass the second car. Before I could do that, the tailgating driver veered sharply back into the right lane with his arm out the window giving me the single-fingered salute, what my younger daughter Katie used to call “the bad finger” when she was a kiddo, and then jerked the wheel left into the passing lane to leave me in his wake.
I got a good enough look when he saluted me to see that he was a young male driver, perhaps even a teen, who thought little of his impetuosity and recklessness, only of that annoying old man that was clogging his bat-out-of-Hades lane.
Once his tail lights were far ahead of me and I passed the second car and eased back into the right-hand lane, I said a small prayer that he’d one day grow old enough to say his own small prayer for another impulsive young driver.
Once you reach a certain age, I think you realize the preciousness of time and the need to slow every moment down as much as possible by spending far more time in the right lanes of life than the left ones.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]