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.