COMMENTARY: Reflections on life in the stopped lane

As I slowed to a stop in the left turn lane on westbound North Street at Bechtle Avenue, the driver’s side window rolled down on the van to my right. It would be a moment before a scene that seemed snatched from a Game of Thrones unfolded.

Because of the angle between our cars, I was unable to see the queen’s full face. But, in the midst of the morning commute, her profile, like that of a one-eyed Jack, was enough to tell me her style was not business casual.


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The blonde hair, neatly coiffed, appeared to have been either expertly cut or lightly sprayed into place. Either way, the result was so fashionable that I wondered whether the light blue van with the glossy finish was her daily vehicle or if she’d chosen it from a lot as a last minute accessory to her outfit.

Whether the horn started blaring behind me as she extended her arm out the window or it sounded as it came to full length, I can’t recall. What I’ll not forget is the decisiveness with which she displayed the elegantly manicured nail on her left middle finger — a finger coated in a red so blazingly I assume all you ladies and drag queens can find it under the name en fuego.

The gesture was so commanding I wondered whether it was intended for me — whether I’d somehow collided with her without noticing it and elicited her anger. As it turned out, though, the royal finger wasn’t intended for me at all, but for a driver behind us who had recently disturbed the tranquility of the royal morning.

But, as often the case in the twisting plots of Game of Thrones, the horn (which likely should be labeled with an icon of an extended finger) had indeed been intended for me.

Distracted by the actions of our area’s Meghan Markle, I had missed the green turn arrow in front of me, backed up busy traffic and incurred the righteous indignation of a panel truck to my rear.

Forced to soak in a pool of embarrassment through the next full cycle of the light, I had time to wonder whether the Ohio Revised Code has a statute that allows an officer to write a ticket to a motorist operating a motor vehicle while being a moron — and whether I could mail the fine in or would be required to make a personal appearance.

“How do you plead to the charge of operating a motor vehicle while being a moron?”

“No contest, your honor.”

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“You’re right about that, Mr. Stafford. Please pay your fine to the the clerk who is failing to control her laughter.”

Finally, the green arrow lit up again, and I accelerated through my turn in hopes of leaving the whole episode behind me. Alas, the plot instead thickened.

I didn’t find it unusual that the white car behind me took a left and headed south just as I did. We both had been in the left turn lane. And because the car wasn’t accelerating to keep up with me, I figured I was safe.

But after it followed me across the tracks and then right onto High Street, I gave the rear view mirror a longer look. And when it turned right, as I did, into the dead-end street beside the Clark County Recycling Center, I began to recall rumor that the Mafia incased the body of long ago Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa into the cement under what’s now MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

What were the chances that I, who had tried to be a responsible citizen by not putting out my recycling bin on a day on which winds had gusted above 40 miles an hour, would myself be recycled when bringing its contents to the proper place on my own?

As it turned out, the couple that had followed me had nothing but nice things to say. Neither husband nor wife appeared to be armed and seemed incapable of hefting my heft into one of the bins. Both proved to be friendly as could be.

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Later that day, I recalled that my late father (who was born in 1928 and remembered the first fatal auto accident in Marquette, Mich.,) claimed that the most effective safety devices ever added to the car were electric turn signals. “Now,” he told me, “nobody uses them.”

An Internet search yielded the information that the device was introduced in 1939 by Buick. Before that, people rolled down their left windows and used hand signals, though of a different variety than I observed at Bechtle and North.

To be fair I see more friendly than foul gestures while out driving. I regularly witness people waving others in front of them in parking lots, and courteously showing thanks to waving thanks to people who yield the right of way in gaps between cars parked on crowded side streets.

I’ll end with a tip to student drivers in recognizing the friendly signals: Unlike the others, they’re made with the palm facing forward.

Happy motoring, my friends.

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