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Applegater Mike Dickenson grapples with his daily commute…

photo by Tim Daw (www.timdawphotography.com)

by Mike Dickenson

I was commuting home from work the other day when I realized that my throat was sore and scratchy. I immediately made an appointment for the doctor’s office. The doctor ran blood samples, noted the whites on my knuckles, and commented on the murmurs of frustration coming from my throat. After much consideration he finally gave me a diagnosis:

I had a severe case of… Road Rage.

I consider myself to be a caring and empathetic individual. It has recently come to my attention, however, that I exhibit extreme reactions to slow drivers. It’s not that I’m impatient, mind you, I just really, don’t like to wait. This is a dilemma for someone who commutes from the Applegate to Talent most days of the week.

On a good day, I make it to my destination in 45-minutes. But when I find myself behind the random sight-seer, logging truck, or head-in-the-clouds driver, my journey (and blood pressure) takes a turn for the worst.

I remind myself that it’s better to focus on the solution, not the problem. How great would it be for the county to install a slow-speed passenger train for all those care-freein’, sight-seein’ drivers? It would not only take them off the road, but would add a gentle chuck -chucka sound that southern Oregon travel magazine writers could promote.

This proposition may be a bit extreme. Even with proper funding, our end goal of segregating the Slow Ones would still be a few years out. Here’s another alternative:

I propose that drivers be permitted to install a LED marquee onto the hood of their car. Much like a construction vehicle with warning lights, these private marquees could alert slow drivers of the about-to–implode-commuter behind them. Imagine how helpful a flashing LED sign with various expletives might be for an individual driving 15 MPH under the speed limit.

You might condemn me as rash—after all, there is no “correct” way to drive down the road. I fully accept that all drivers are fellow human beings, that we each have our own imperfections…

But remember: I have a medical condition!

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MY MEDICAL CONDITION

While most of my commute is single lane, I can make up time in the passing lane of Highway 99–that is, until someone blocks the lane, and fiddles with the radio or God knows what, while I, marquee-less, make vain attempts at sign language.

I sigh with relief and turn left onto the open road. But then, ahead, is a car swerving like a bowling ball down the gutter guards while the driver gesticulates while on his cell phone.

Eventually, Cellphone Steve swerves onto Griffin Lane, which puts me directly behind a K9 driver. A malamute mix wags on its owner’s lap while she fails to signal their upcoming turn. An oncoming car honks and throws a fist out the window.

At last, I reach Jacksonville, with all of its reminders to drive slow. I guess we’re supposed to be on the lookout for something historic? Well, let me tell you, people are driving at a historically slow pace, perhaps reminiscing about horse-and-buggy days and the joys of churning cheese.

Ten minutes later, I’ve made it through the quarter-mile, 30 -minute stretch of J-Ville. A truck hauling three-story-house and a “Wide Load” sign chugs up ahead. Instead of letting the caravan of commuting refugee pass, this driver hauls the load over the hill in one single 15 MPH push. A vein in my neck twitches. Country music turns to death metal.

The truck finally pulls off and a Clampett car takes its place. The driver is flying. He’s either late for something, or he just got word that his illegal grow-op is about to get busted. His load is about as secure as a trailer full of loose hay. Sheets of plastic and plumbing pieces go flying as the Clampett car attempts to pass a slow-going dreamer on blind corners.

And there is deer. Sweet deer of few concerns. The dreamer knows these deer well – has even constructed warning signs throughout the neighborhood for their protection. Lacking a roof-top marquee, the she flashes her hazard lights. Clampett car speeds past her, narrowly misses an oncoming truck, and smacks sweet deer’s backside with a loose ratchet strap. The caravan looks onward with amazement and envy. That bold and reckless individual who will no doubt arrive at his destination hours before the rest of us.

My heart rate goes up, knuckles go white, frustration in my throat.

Someone call the doctor!

Mike Dickenson learned how to write in 2nd grade and has been at it ever since. He’s traveled to over 40 countries, many of them by thumb, and has written extensively about his adventures. He settled in the Rogue Valley in 2012 and now calls Applegate his home.

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