It was the end of a day full of errands as The Partner, the kids and I traveled up a two lane state highway toward home. This particular stretch of semi-bucolic road is known as a death trap due, in part, to exorbitant levels of traffic that would be better routed elsewhere. Construction began in 1971 on an expressway to alleviate the congestion, but was halted because of lack of funding. The half-baked expressway ends abruptly in my town, with traffic forced to exit before the weedy approach to an overpass that leads nowhere.
It's imperative to stay in one's own lane in the best of circumstances; on this road, it's the only means of survival. There WILL be oncoming traffic. On this trip home, we were following a young driver who, apparently, didn't get that email. And it wasn't for lack of it being sent through his BlackBerry.
The car swerved slightly into the oncoming lane. It's to early to be drunk, I thought, though I know the laws of probability didn't mean it wasn't possible. The car swerved again, right next to an SUV sailing by in the other direction.
"I bet that asshole is texting," The Partner said.
We followed the car for five or so miles until the intersection that serves as the center of our town, and as a busy thoroughfare between towns much larger. Both cars stopped at the traffic light side by side as we lined up to turn right. The other car's passenger side window was open. The Partner rolled down his.
"Put down the phone!" The Partner yelled.
A tow headed teenager was caught in mid-grin as he chuckled at a message on the cell in his hand. He jolted, searching for the source of the directive. The boy clutched his phone as he focused in on us, agape.
"You were all over the road back there!" Evidently, this young man had never been spoken to like that. He could do nothing but stare. The phone hovered.
"PUT DOWN THE FUCKING PHONE!"
The boy jumped, the cell coming to a rest in the center console. The light changed. We drove off in separate directions.
If The Partner's reaction seems overblown and indicative of supreme road rage, there may be some truth to that conclusion. But more pressing in The Partner's mind were the images of a YouTube video he saw recently that graphically depicts a car accident resulting from a young driver texting while driving. I haven't seen it--won't watch it--but The Partner told me as much as I could handle. He said it showed a small child in the backseat, strapped into a a carseat behind two dead parents. Then a tiny voice: "Mommy, daddy, wake up!"
That is what gets The Partner. That is the only thing that melts his heart of ice. Every tiny voice is The Boss's, every baby girl is his. As far as the protection of his daughter is concerned, his is a primal rage, on the road or anywhere else.
Put down the fucking phone.