That Tree? What tree?

By Steve Estes

Strictly Drivel by Steve Estes

I’ve lived in lots of places in this country east of the Mississippi River. I don’t count the years I spent in Southern California as a wee lad because my memory is really fuzzy about my pre-six years. And I’ve lived in foreign countries as well as visited many others.

In all that time, I’ve seen some really strange things being carried in, on or behind vehicles of all kinds.

We’ve all seen the mattress tied with twine to the top of the car whizzing down the highway at 60 miles per hour and doing whatever we could to get out of the way before that mattress caught a good gust of wind and sent the bedding flying into our own vehicle.

We’ve all seen the holiday Christmas tree strapped to the top of a car smaller than the tree, with the branches hanging across the windshield and a driver trying to peek around the blowing branches to maintain a travel lane. Or that same Christmas tree stuffed in a too-small trunk and sticking out five feet behind the car, waiting to scratch the paint of any vehicle that got too close.

We’ve all seen the small-bed pick up truck whose owner believes it’s a real truck and tries to stack 10 sheets of plywood into the little thing, leaving two feet of board hanging behind the truck bed, even with the tailgate down, and the back of the truck squatted dangerously close to the asphalt.

I remember times when I lived in Sicily that we would spot small three-wheeled vans that the foreigners called “lizards” mainly because of the color loaded eight feet high with all manner of cargo. The diminutive trucks would climb hills, but barely, usually slowing down to about 15 kilometers per hour (a dangerous thing in a country where everyone is related, or thinks they are, to Mario Andretti in some fashion). The trucks barely held the weight, and would usually weave all over the road as the front wheels barely made contact with the road surface.

In the same fashion, I have seen all manner of thing dragged along the road by vehicles, some deliberately, and others by drivers totally oblivious to the presence of a foreign object either behind or under the car.

I see lots of cars tooling down the road with sheets of plastic, plastic bags or plastic bottles trailing along behind them.

I have seen plenty of cars tooling down the highway with articles of clothing hanging out the doors, being dragged on the asphalt. This is particularly true of cold weather times.

But earlier this week I saw something that I have never really seen before, at least not that I can remember, and I’m relatively sure that I would remember something this weird.

I was standing on the front porch at our office. That particular perch gives me a limited view of the highway out front as the east end of the building is perpendicular to the highway and the west end, ours, is parallel. We don’t see the southbound traffic until it clears the east end of the building, then it disappears as it crosses past the building next door.

It’s maybe four or five seconds, so it will take longer to write the story than it took to witness it.

From the east side comes this mid-size, blue sedan with black fenders like they had been replaced, or repaired and never painted. The windows were down, so it wasn’t an issue that the driver couldn’t hear what was going on outside the car.

The young man (I have kids about his age so yes, young) driving was busily bobbing his head up and down as he drove along so he could simultaneously read the texts on his cell phone and attempt to watch the road to avoid accidents. Many of us, unfortunately, practice such driving habits and not all of us crash.

But the attention he paid to his phone was probably why he didn’t notice what was going on under the car.

Rather, under the car isn’t exactly correct.

You see, the young man had a tree branch stuck under his car. That’s not in itself unusual.

What is unusual is that the tree branch was probably seven feet in length and was stuck under the passenger door pointed forward.

So here rolls this smallish car with a huge tree branch sticking out from under the front bumper sweeping the road as he went down the highway.

The occasional wind gust must have pushed the branch partly into the driver’s vision.

Oh wait, that must have been the moments when his head was down reading or writing some text on his phone. Why else could he not see this recurring bouncing tree branch popping out from under his car?

As he disappeared from view southbound I could only fervently hope that wherever this kid was headed, he remained on well-maintained, high-access roadways.

He was pushing the equivalent of a cattle sweep in front of his car. If he was planning on using some pothole-ridden side street on any island you care to name, he might be in for a shock as that piece of tree branch hit the opposite side of the pot hole and put to the test the immovable object versus irresistible force theory of physics.

And what would happen, per chance, should he get too close to the back side of another vehicle with a standard transmission and rookie driver that lets the car roll backward before going forward?

Or get too close to that same car when an inopportune gust of wind makes the branch rise off the ground to the height of the other bumper?

But then again, maybe this young man knew exactly what was going on and was simply being a well-intentioned citizen doing his part by sweeping the streets in a rather eccentric, albeit inefficient, fashion?

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