Thursday, January 22, 2009


This old service station is at Harcum, which is just outside the county line on Route 198 headed towards West Point. This part of 198 is very tricky at night, because it's narrow (2-lane), it's very dark (no such thing as street lights and very sparsely populated), and for the most part it's surrounded by woods on either side (translation: # of Deer=the population of Tokyo). Use of the high beam setting of your headlights is essential to any nighttime trip on this and any other roads in or near Mathews County.

If you live in Mathews and the surrounding counties, you have to navigate plenty of back roads, usually narrow, two-lane roads, that may or may not be marked. (As in some of them don't have a center passing line or a line marking the shoulder. Sometimes on these desolate, unmarked roads, if nobody else is coming, I will drive in the middle or on the left-hand side simply because there's no line telling me I must stay on the right. I'm rebellious that way. Plus, I'm bored. Plus there isn't a prayer of another car coming for months on end, so I know I'm safe. Plus I like saying "plus.")

Even our main roads are narrow, and all are two-lane; the closest four-lane highway is the next county over.

Dark, country roads necessitate the use of high beams when driving at night or early morning, before sunrise.

You never know what's going to jump out on to the road in the darkness-- a dog, a deer, even the occasional stray person who is hitchhiking or staggering home. Or somewhere. Of course, if you’re down New Point way, there’s always the chance that a herd of fiddler crabs will ambush from nowhere with no warning whatsoever except the clickety-clack of their little legs scurrying across the pavement.

For these and other reasons, successful night-time navigation in Mathews involves heavy use of the high-beam mode of headlights.

Skilled country drivers are very adept at shifting from high beams to low beams at precisely the right time; timing, you see, is everything.

For example, it's pitch-black dark and you see no cars coming - click on the high beams so you can see better. You drive for a while and as you approach a turn, you see another set of headlights approaching. At just the right second before the other car gets near, you click your high beams back down to low. As the car passes you, you click back to high again.

Bad drivers do it all wrong, this high beam to low beam thing.There are basically three types of Bad Drivers as Relates to High Beam Usage:

1. The person in the oncoming car who turns their high beams on and promptly forgets they're on, never lowers them and successfully blinds everyone coming in the other direction.

2. The person in the car ahead of you who will not turn their high beams on even though it’s pitch black dark and there’s a herd of deer ready to jump out in front of you both. This is trifling because not only can neither one of you see properly, but you can’t even turn your high beams on without blinding him from behind. Which leads me to….

3. The person behind you who has their high beams on and does not lower them, rendering your retinas useless due to the glare of their headlights bouncing off your rear view mirror directly into your cornea.

Anyway, this is a long, rambling way of introducing what I really want to say, which is this: I am very, extremely, highly tolerant of all sorts of bad drivers around here, the 3 described above and others, because most of the time I'm not in so much of a hurry that I mind when somebody pulls out in front of me, or when they drive 25 miles per hour wearing a great big hat with a feather coming out of it, or when they can barely see above the steering wheel, but yet they still have a driver's license even though they remember when Ulysses S. Grant was alive. For instance.

No, I have a lot of tolerance for all types of drivers. Except for one.

For some reason, my Saturn must have really bright low-beam headlights. I say this because frequently on my ride home at night, the oncoming car will flash their headlights to high and then low quickly, which is the universal signal that says “You idiot. You are driving towards me with your high beams on. Please refrain from blinding me and causing a head-on collision. You’re an idiot, but I am going to forgive you because I am giving you this fair warning to turn your lights down. If you lower your high beams, nobody will get hurt and we can proceed along as if nothing ever happened.”

The thing is, I don't have my high beams on. Not at all. They just think I do. But I don't.

Now,if I get that signal twice—in other words, I do not change my headlights after receiving the first signal because they’re on the lowest possible level of brightness—yet the oncoming driver gives me the YOU IDIOT LOWER YOUR HEADLIGHTS signal again, then I become absolutely, 100%incapable of exhibiting rational human behavior and am a hazard to anyone and anything in striking distance.

This irritates me because I am being blamed for something I am smart enough not to do, which is blind the oncoming driver. But there's no way for me to communicate this to the oncoming driver, other than this, which I did tonight when it happened:I grabbed the handle of the thingie coming out the steering wheel that controls the beams and wrenched it to the setting known as High, Blazing Hot High, Blind You High and Don't Tell Me I Have My High Beams on When I Don't High. That level of high. And I left them on. High. Left them. On.

By so doing, I created a whole separate breed of Bad Driver to add to the list above:

4. The tired, frazzled Coming Home from a Horrendous Day of Work Well-Meaning Mother who does NOT have high beams on because she's a good driver, but who is forced to defend herself because the oncoming car thinks she intentionally has her lights on high beams so she must then turn high beams on and blind oncoming driver to "show him."

Chesapeake Bay Woman Who Really Needs a Vacation
(And who really can't stand people who think she's intentionally driving towards them with high beams on when she isn't.)

p.s. This may be the world's longest, most boring post ever written that could have been summarized in two to three sentences. Please see above about needing a vacation. I hear Costa Rica is lovely this time of year.


Unknown said...

I personally like to be driver #4. It breaks up the monotony and keeps the oncoming car on their toes.

There is another type of driver who is even more of a hazard...the ones who drive without their lights on at all. Seriously, where are the cops when you need them.

Your purposely trying to freak me out about killer fiddler crabs aren't you? Next thing you know, you're gonna tell me about the specific breed of fiddler craps that fly...especially at night.

Angela said...

Costa Rica just had a severe earth quake and all the tourists thought, if only we had stayed in Mathews (or elsewhere). And your way of driving on the left just to have fun brought back to my mind the story of two Japanese drivers who strictly followed the middle line of the road, because it was very foggy and they could not see far ahead, and both had rolled down their windows and stuck their heads out to be able to follow the middle line better - and what happened? Their heads hit each other!
If I haven`t commented for a while it does not mean I have stopped communicating. But first it was New Year etc, and now it is my awful cold. But I still enjoy good stories! Thanks for yours!
Ha, veri word says carcisco, like Car-Cisco (you, the hazard!)

Ann Marie said...

You reminded me of a couple of things with this one.. not boring at all.

1. I am not sure what you drive BUT I get this a lot in my truck and it always seems to be by people in lower cars. I am thinking that the beams just happen to hit them at eye level or something.

2. What I LOVE to see is the granny driving from Bavon to the Court House who I just so happen to quite often get behind, and it always happens that at St Paul Stretch there are cars coming .. do you realize that is the ONLY place to pass anyone on your way out of the end of the earth? She is a cute little granny.. she drives 20, is so short her seat is all the way up to the wheel yet she is still peering through the window shield by looking through the hole in the steering wheel, and her hat.. Pill Box! GOT TO LOVE IT.

3. I just realized that in these parts we call roads "stretchs" Much like the photo on todays post.. Harcum Stretch.. what is up with that??

4. You also reminded me of "I don't believe your blinker" Has nothing to do with headlights but plenty with bad drivers. It was the one thing that my mother taught me and my sister person that seems to have stuck for the last 20 years. This is used for that driver who leaves his blinker on all the time.. you never pull out in front of someone with their blinker on because you are not to ever believe the blinker because it could actually be grandpops coming at you who has had his blinker on for the last 33 miles.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Grandma J. - I forgot about those who don't put on their lights at all. I used to see that often when I lived in the city. Around here, not so much although it does happen. Here, if you can't see well you end up in the ditch mighty quickly, and our ditches are Grand-Canyon deep. I'm pulling your leg with the fiddler crab's fun though. (Middle Sister can preach a sermon on all the tall tales I've told in the name of sisterly torture.)

Angela - That is one funny story about the two drivers bonking heads. That sounds like something I'd do. In fact, this morning there was frost on the windshield and I had to drive to the bus stop. Of course I didn't scrape it off, and I *almost* stuck my head out the window, but then thought better of it based on your head bonking story. (I got out and scraped the frost off..this was on my lane so there was no safety or security violation in case anyone reading is The Law....)

Ann Marie - I KNOW, you're right about that turn signal thing. For me, the worst offenders of this are at the corner at Zooms. If you're coming off the island and are at the stop sign, it seems like most everyone has their signal on to turn, but only about half actually do. Sometimes they just change their minds, sometimes they're signalling for a stop fourteen miles ahead, or others just don't care and leave the daggone thing blinking. Good one!

Ann Marie said...


Meg McCormick said...

We get a lot of no-light drivers around me, but that's because we are in the suburbs and there are so many street lights that one really could drive without headlights and still be seen.

This post made me remember our Chevy Silverado pick-up truck that we had when I learned to drive, about 80 years ago - the headlight high beam / low beam switch was on the floor, and you operated it with your left foot. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Meg, in the original draft of this post,which I very hastily wrote last night, I talked about the old Model Something (A? T? LMNOP?) Ford that my parents had, and the beam changer thingie was a button on the floor. I LOVED stomping on it. (I ended up deleting the part about this because as you can see, there were already enough words to choke an elephant.....and I am pretty sure was about to ban me from using up too much valuable real estate. See how I am even too wordy in my comments?)

Anonymous said...

I still say "I don't believe your blinker!" and crack up for days when driving behind an offender of the blinker.

CBW, what about the fine art of tapping the brakes lights? That's certainly a Mathews thing!

And, as the wife of a mechanic which makes me one as well, do you need your headlights adjusted?

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Phyl - Yes, I've talked about the brake light tapping thing somewhere on here before...who knows where and how long ago it was, though. I'll have to check on the headlight adjustment...but the car isn't too terribly old. I think the lights just have a little extra "somethin' somethin'" that causes people to think I'm intentionally blinding them.

I love the "I don't believe your blinker" line because it is so true around here. I'll be using that one quite a bit.

Mental P Mama said...

Oh, the crap we must tolerate from the idiots on our roads. I have done the defensive hi beam turn on maneuver myself. I am sorry my lights are so good you think they're on bright. Gah. Lord, I am already in a sweat. And I am not drinking today. Well, that's the plan anyway. The brats came home last night. All tan and stuff.

Anonymous said...

I went to school (college) with a girl from Norfolk. Until we drove home from Washington, DC via Route 17 late one night she had NEVER USED her high beams.

I was amazed.

She was scared to death.

I was even more amazed at how scared she was.

She, who would flit about frightening Norfolk neighborhoods in the wee hours, searching for an open 7-11 so we could buy M&M's to put in the brownies we were baking, was scared of an empty bean field and a few deer.

Plop me in a dark bean field any day of the week -- you can keep Norfolk's dark streets all to yourself!


PS I'm sorry I haven't been doing much writing lately. I've been too busy combing thru and packing up the detritus of the last 8 years of my life. I keep telling myself I'm making progress, but I'm not sure. Maybe I'll find something old you can use.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

AMN - You've reminded me that I knew a few city slickers earlier in life who had never used their high beams either. It's amazing.

Good luck with your combing and I can't wait for the next story.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh! Country driving....I know it well:) Personally, I'd be happy if I never had to drive in the city, or on an interstate, EVER again!!!

MOST country drivers are VERY courteous when it comes to the whole low beam/high beam thing. All it takes in one bad apple....

pjhammer_1965 said...

Costa Rica would be fun Plus, you wouldn't have to worry about driving.

Might wanna get those beams checked. There's a little machine that determines the height and direction of your headlights to make sure that the beam is in the right location and not in the opposing driver's face.

One thing we hardly ever have the opportunity to use around here, high beams.

abb said...

Let us know when you get to Costa Rica ;-)!

foolery said...

"Your high beams are on" means something quite different in my neck of the woods, and will get a man slapped in a quick hurry. : )

I drive a six mile stretch -- we say that, too -- of two-lane not terribly busy country road on my way home every day. I play the delicate game of high beam/low beam around the only two curves and one rise on the road. When some clod ignores the high beam/low beam rules it's time to throw stuff at him (but I don't).

And for vacation, please consider the lowly LaGroneville: it's not expensive, it's not fun, Hell it's not even on a map! But it's hotter than blazes in the summer and there are no cottonmouths.

Good times.

Anonymous said...

High Beams On? - HA, And I just thought you were happy to see me!

...yeah Foolery, I've been slapped more than a few times - just goes with being observant...and not very smart:)

Seems all the high school boys around here hit the auto shops and put in the extra bright headlights, no doubt to impress the girls.


On a warm summer night, when the kids are out cruising around, an old fuddy duddy like me has to shield his eyes from all the 'excitement':)

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

BHE - I feel the same way about interstates. I have to take a small stretch of I-64 on my particular version of getting to work (there are plenty others, but I'm always running late and this alllows me to expedite the journey), but other than that I cannot tell you the last time I drove on one. I knew a lady in Northern Virginia who had a phobia of interstates (and up there, that is a real fear). She would drive well out of her way and take twice as long to get there just to avoid them.

PJH - Next time I take the car in, I'll mention it. That'll probably be 5 years from now when it breaks down for good because I've not properly maintained it. I betcha it'll be on the shoulder of an interstate too....

TSA - I've been trying to get MPm and BHE to take a girls' trip for days now.

Foolery, I honestly knew that someone would mention this alternate meaning, but I thought for sure it would be RC. I see I have two of you to reckon with....

RC - I see you didn't waste any time jumping on board that band wagon driven by Foolery....

ANYWAY, I have to get ready for a basketball marathon and won't be back here until much later tonight. Tonight, when I will have driven playing the Beam Game and hoping I don't run into my previously mentioned Bad Beamers.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

MPM - That's exactly what I've thought all along - that my lights are just better than average and appear brighter when they aren't really, but perhaps I will take the advice given here and have them checked out. Sometime in the next 5 years...

Anonymous said...

My first "good look" at typical city or beltway driving was as on the way back from delivering flowers to a distributor in Baltimore. At 6:00 AM the cars were lined up "for miles", heading into DC. Not for me, I decided.

Also, as I get older I like to "putter around" like I'm eighty. If someone screeches by me in obvious disgust, I just let out a few obscenities and putter on my way. The obscenities always make me feel better.

There are some good things about getting older...


Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

MMM - Funny you mention flowers, because tomorrow I'll be talking about daffodils. Also, the very traffic you cite is one of the reasons I hightailed it out of Northern Virginia when I did. I could not STAND the traffic there. It would take half an hour just to go down the way to the grocery store. I could walk faster.

I think I smell the makings of a story about you delivering flowers.

Anonymous said...

"...smell the makings of a story about you delivering flowers"... nice pun there CBW - Letterman like sarcasm intended.

Don't forget, I have 8 weeks off from serious blogging. Though the blog today has me feeling a bit more edgy; and, edgy blog stories are fun for everyone.


PS - What does "ankleriv" mean? It's on my screen in skewed red letters. Is it a code word for knee deep water or something? It must be a code word, I have type it in to post this silly comment. And why do we do this blogging stuff anyway. Don't we have better things to do. I mean come on, Mumma, Pookie, CBF, Middle Sis... what the hell are we talking about? How'd I ever get hooked on this blog anyway. It's your fault CBW. You're an old friend, blah, blah, blah; but, really, couldn't I be doing something more productive?...,...,...

By the way, how many total blog hits did you get yesterday?

Golden To Silver Val said...

OMG I laughed out loud at this post! This has happened to me so much that I now have a very short fuse. If someone blinks their lights at me once, I turn on my high beams immediately to let them know THEY ARE WRONG. I used to wait too long and they would be past me and would live out their days believing that I was some sort of idiot, driving with my high beams on. more! I'm sick of being blamed for things I never that time....ah oh..yeah, getting carried away. Ahem. Great post!.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

MMM - Thank you for making me laugh from the gut. But isn't this blogging stuff fun? Just wait until you start dreaming about it, and then you're on vacation and you're saying, "Well, Soup this and Grandma J. that, and Big Hair Envy said this and Mental P Mamma is staying there for the Blogfest," etc. Yes, it is addicting, BUT here's my approach to it. We COULD be "wasting" (such a harsh word, that) our time in front of the TV set, but instead we are exercising our minds, thinking, being creative, being silly, having fun and just perhaps maybe something productive can come out of all this.

Personally, I'm voting for a Mathews County Reality TV show, and Pookie would make the BEST emcee. I really think such a show would be wildly good. I need to craft the proposal in my mind and figure out who to pitch it to. This place is a wonderland of entertainment - you just have to know where to go looking for it. Gwynn's Island is a darn fine place to start....

BTW - Pookie is going to need to make an appearance at our Blogfest in July (details forthcoming). I want her to tell some stories, or jsut talk, either one will give people an essence of the county and our people. (I mean that as a compliment.)

Golden to Silver Val - I knew I liked you! Isn't it maddening? Thank you for your words, I swear most days the stuff i toss up here I am embarassed to admit I wrote, but if even one person likes it, my mission is accomplished.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Oh, and MMM - yesterday we had a record high of 156 hits. I have no idea why such a surge, there's really no rhyme or reason to it. Many of the people are coming from google searches, and the things they search on to end up here are hilarious. In fact, maybe I'll do a post on that this weekend....

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Correction - it was 161 hits. Numbers.

Anonymous said...

If I said I wanted to write a story about peppercorns... would that mean anything to you CBW?

All for the day... I'm wiped out.

Good night everyone.


Anonymous said...

I can confirm that CBW really knows about nocturnal back roads navigation. When I was a teenager I saw her in action. It is refreshing to see that she has taken this talent to a whole other level. She’s got skills!


Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

B. - I wish I could remember the make of that car you used to drive. (I remember it was red/orange-ish, and I believe it had a white interior?) Ah, the memories. SODA also comes to mind for some reason....can't explain why.

Unknown said...

I just checked out Bossy's blog again. You are a hoot! I have a movie review to post, but I must say Meg's idea about digging up daffodil bulbs and putting them in goodie bags for Blogapalooza attendees would be fabulous. Then we can all blog the results. Of course If I drive to VA mine might sprout before I make it back to TX. Also, please dont use this as an opportunity to thin out your fiddler crap population. Hasta!

Anonymous said...

"...Sometimes on these desolate, unmarked roads, if nobody else is coming, I will drive in the middle or on the left-hand side simply because there's no line telling me I must stay on the right. I'm rebellious that way..."

My husband says this is why, occasionally he finds himself on the wrong side of the road. I say balderdash to that! I say it's because he occasionally forgets he doesn't live across the bloody pond anymore and he thinks he's driving on the Queen's roads! Silly Brit!

I drive an SUV and I get the same thing from people in front of me driving smaller cars. I think I unintentionally make it worse though because I drive with my fog lights on most of the time.