Rabbi Steve Weisman keeps an eagle eye on traffic here, frequently spotting dangerous situations. He also blogs about it on the "The Driving Force." His blog this week disturbed me, and I'm passing along his observations here.
I know it has been a while (since I wrote something like this)—please do not infer from this that traffic issues have gotten better in my area; the opposite is closer to the truth. I have just been way too busy with my own life, and have become way too depressed that truly nothing short of an Egyptian style uprising is going to change anything here—the issues are endemic, the corruption is now being documented, and innocent lives continue to be shattered, but no one seems to care.
So there I was this morning, beautiful Monday morning, dutifully driving my 8th grader to his middle school. I was even smiling because my wife has been away all weekend, so I had to be up earlier than usual to get the kids out, and possibly, as a result, we were actually leaving early and destined to be on time.
Why am I driving my middle-schooler at 8 a.m. you may ask? Because in this third quarter, in Prince George’s County’s screwed up version of education, my kid needs to take a period zero class every day to make his schedule work!
Sure, we are eligible for bus service—but they don't run buses for the additional, pre-school period zero classes. And so, every school morning during the third quarter (and every other morning the rest of the school year) I am obligated to risk my life and that of my child in the mile and a half trip up Route 197 north and across Old Church Road during rush hour with these idiots!
When I went to pull out into traffic on Route 197 north at 7:50 a.m., I realized that there was a truck cab blocking the right northbound lane just south of the intersection, forcing the rush hour volume into a single lane, stretching the flow of uninterrupted traffic far enough that the usual seams were now blurring together.
At 7:53, I succeeded in getting half way across 197, leaving myself in the median opening, usually only used for left hand turns onto 197 north and illegal u-turns back to 197 south to go west on Route 450 at that time of day—and was happy to prevent any of the latter.
It was another three minutes before a hint of an opening came up, and I quickly jammed myself into it, and accelerated immediately in the left lane to the posted speed of 40 mph. Unfortunately for me, the clown who had led the left turn parade from Route 450 east, despite the obvious traffic snarl, was accelerating through the turn to a speed that would have reached well beyond 40 mph, and barely stopped before making me his hood ornament. He was driving a silver or gray Toyota Corolla, and I scribbled down the tag number.
He then proceeded to tailgate me, literally on my bumper, until I could move to the right lane, even though I stubbornly had my speedometer jammed right on 40 mph. When I did succeed in getting over, he sped past me immediately, and then feigned a cut-off move in front of me before steering back into his lane, and almost failed to notice the significant volume stopped in front of him in the left lane awaiting the turn of the traffic light at Old Church, creating his second near accident inside of two minutes.
It is noteworthy that the traffic was backed up beyond where the left turn lane begins for the post office and the strip mall, because, once he slammed on the brakes and recovered from his own arrogance. He then proceeded to pull left out of his lane, at least for a distance across the double yellow and into oncoming traffic, before making the left hand turn into the post office, and pulling through the gate, presumably to park in back as an employee.
But the story had just begun! After dropping my son off, his usual few minutes late through no fault of his or mine (except for my refusal to speed to get him there on time—the rest of you should try it the next time you are running late!), I drove home, and noted the truck cab still there, hazards still blinking, still creating traffic problems. I drove home, logged the other fool's tag number, and walked back to see if I could get info on the truck cab.
I first noted a lack of license plate. Then I looked at the driver's side door, which was neatly labeled "United States Postal Service." Yep, USPS caused the traffic; USPS nearly caused an accident for me—twice! Where I had been unsure whether to try the police non-emergency number or call WTOP first, my choice was now clear. After noting the serial number on the hood of the cab, I called the local post office branch, walking distance up the road.
I was pleasantly surprised to get a human voice within six rings. I believe she identified herself as Maria—the thickness of her accent made it hard to be sure. But at least she identified herself. After I explained the situation to her briefly, she asked me to hold, and, I correctly guessed, went to find a supervisor.
At least I assume the second person I spoke to was a supervisor. She never identified herself in any way. No name, no title. I again described the scene, and provided the serial number when asked, only to be told, and I am quoting here, "That isn't one of our trucks."
You cannot make this stuff up. Even if what she meant to say was "That is not a truck assigned to this branch," given the long history of lack of service from the Bowie Post Office to local residents, I wasn't optimistic about a quick resolution.
Even though it was only 8:15 when I got off the phone—three minutes after placing the call, and 25 from my first interaction with the event.
Being awake and energized, I decided to walk back out and watch the scene (not) unfold. Got back to the corner by about 8:18, and by 8:20 was actually talking to a human voice at the county non-emergency police dispatch.
I explained the scenario, shared the story about almost being run off the road, and was put on hold. While I was on hold, my cell phone died. Flat out quit—white screen.
Despite that, at exactly 8:30, a police car made the right from 450 west to 197 north, and pulled up behind the truck. At that point, he got out of the car, saw me on the opposite corner, and motioned to me to ask if the truck was mine. I motioned back "no," and started walking towards him. He climbed into the cab to examine the situation—at which point I realized that at no time in 35 plus minutes had I seen any trace of the driver. In that time, he could easily have walked to the Bowie Post Office and requested help in person.
The officer and I compared notes. He claimed to have gotten a call about the truck (!), although I believe I recognized him as my neighbor down the block, and therefore he could have been heading home and stumbled upon it!
As he was calling it in on his radio and waiting for the response, he clearly said something about "I saw it when I went out at 5:45 this morning (?). I really figured it would have been taken care of by now? Now, almost three hours later, he was going to call the Postal Police, whose number he said he had in the car. I left him to do his work.
In nearly three hours, was I the only person to phone in a report to anyone about this? Possible, but given the volume of people who drove past it and were inconvenienced or endangered by it, even in the post-Kitty Genovese world, highly unlikely. Because, among others, that would have had to have included the officer who saw it at 5:45 in the morning in the list of those who had not acted! Along with every other police officer, city or county worker, or other emergency respondent who happened to drive past it. None of them reported it either?
And everyone driving north to report to work at the Bowie Post Office—were they all, like my speed demon idiot friend in the silver/grey Corolla, too busy rushing to get to work to notice that it really was one of their vehicles that was responsible?
And every other parent driving a child to school at that time of morning—for we, as a group, truly are the most aware and civic minded cross-section of the populace (God help us all!)? None of them either?
And the driver? Where had s/he disappeared to for close to three hours? And why had there been no response to any calls s/he had made for help? Do we have to assume that none was made? Because in less than five minutes from my call to county police, there was a response! I will be curious to see whether that response has changed anything yet!
Please be careful out there folks!
That sums it up well. Both the rabbi and I have seen so much bad driving, including the police, that it boggles our minds. Report these people! The situation in Bowie demands it.
Rabbi Weisman's blog can be found at http://drivingforcebowie.blogspot.com