I was sitting at a light in Midtown, getting ready to make a right turn. When the light turned green, I pulled into the intersection. I then heard an enormous blast of sound, like an 18-wheeler's horn. I turned to see a big silver Mercedes was roaring through the intersection against the light illegally, headed right toward me.
How this guy was able to simultaneously drive, lean on his horn from Hades, and throw the finger at me is a mystery, but the message was obvious: Get out of my way, jerk! I swerved right, bumped the curb, and came to a stop as he roared off down Madison.
Adrenalin pumping, I sat for a moment, shaking with anger and disbelief. I felt violated. I wanted revenge. I wanted to shoot out his $300 tires and whack his shiny Mercedes with a rusty tire iron. Bastard.
I shook my head, exhaled, and got back in traffic. After a couple of blocks, I noticed the right lane was beginning to back up, so I pulled into the left lane. There was a stalled car ahead. As we inched forward, I marveled at the courtesy of Memphis drivers, most of whom were waving in a car or two stuck in the right lane. In almost no time, the right lane was almost empty. But then, the inevitable happened: A few idiots started sneaking into the right lane, driving down to the stalled vehicle, and then trying to force their way back into the left lane.
Instinctively, we formerly courteous souls closed ranks, inching forward bumper to bumper. "Don't let those jerks in," I mumbled. As I crept along, passing the miscreants a foot at a time, I couldn't help noticing that the first car behind the stalled car was big and silver. I began flexing my middle finger in anticipation of sweet, sweet payback.
But it wasn't a silver Mercedes. It was an old silver Oldsmobile. Two kids were screaming and crying in the backseat. The woman driving looked like she was about to do the same. I declared a truce and waved her in. Her grateful look was ample reward.
Then, amazingly, the car behind her decided to try to force his way in also. The nerve! I revved my motor and pulled forward. "No way, jerk," I said.
Traffic war is hell. Fickle, too.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...