Tuesday, September 25, 2012

goin' down the road, feelin' bad

My wife and I were headed down 42 South in New Jersey, on our way to Atlantic City. We had just picked up our son, who had just wrapped up his Saturday afternoon radio show, and we were treating him to dinner. We drove across the Walt Whitman Bridge, conveniently whizzing through the E-Z Pass lane. We were making our way to the entrance to the Atlantic City Expressway when, just ahead, we spotted an increasing number of brake lights. My wife decelerated with each new light popping up before us. I fumbled with the radio dial, searching for a local traffic report, usually a rarity on a weekend. I tuned in to a New Jersey station just in time to hear a reporter deliver the details of an overturned vehicle snarling four lanes of traffic on 42 South. The report was interrupted by the sound of emergency vehicles speeding past us, along the highway shoulder, in the direction of the calamity. Traffic around us had slowed to a standstill, with cars rolling up and filling in all available space, the drivers anticipating that those few additional inches would bring them that much closer to their destinations. I looked out the window to my right to see a troubled young lady behind the wheel of a tiny car. She chewed her fingernails and nervously craned her neck in all directions, hoping to spot an unseen opening among the immobile knot of automobiles. Unfortunately, she was boxed in on all four sides.

We resigned ourselves to the notion that we were gonna be here for a while. My wife eased the gear shift into "PARK", following the lead of our fellow frustrated commuters. Suddenly, the ominous silver stretch limousine in front of us burst to life. One by one, what seemed like a hundred doors flew open and the highway was immediately deluged by a flood of douchebags. The first to emerge was an mid-20s prep in a light-colored polo shirt with the collar popped. That's right, 2012 - the collar was popped! His feet were unencumbered by socks and wedged comfortably into a pair of colorfully pretentious pair of top brand-name running shoes. He gripped a large blue plastic "party cup" in his right hand. In his left was — of course — an iPhone into which he barked voice-activated commands. This guy was followed by a balding man in his forties, an untucked, misshapen and faded polo shirt flapping in the breeze above his khaki, many-pocketed cargo shorts. He, too, clutched an iPhone and was already engaged in conversation when he came forth into the sunlight. These two characters preceded several more clones — many sporting backward baseball caps and more popped collars — each surfacing from the cavernous confines of their "good time chariot". One after another, they milled about the long perimeter of the limo, shuffling their feet absentmindedly, reporting on their iPhones, turning in the direction of the roadway disaster, shielding their eyes from sunlight in hopes of a better view. But, mostly, they smacked each other on the back and laughed and hooted way too loud. It was like a douchebag clown car. One man (brave or stupid - the jury's still out) climbed up on a twisted guardrail and balanced precariously on tiptoes, until he noted that his position was on the overpass of a highway twenty feet below. He dismounted his perch rather quickly. His amused colleagues pointed at him, as they laughed and hooted and smacked each others backs some more. He didn't notice. He was already yammering into his iPhone and readjusting his popped collar.

After twenty or so minutes, the brake lights in the distance disappeared and traffic began to flow once again. The leader of the douchebag patrol gave the official signal, twirling his index finger in a circular motion above his head like a baseball umpire indicating a home run. The rest of his group climbed back into their "sweet ride" and the headed off for their pre-planned evening of par-TAY!


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