Hey, those are brake lights

By Steve Estes

Strictly Drivel

To those who may never have seen either and watch only inflammatory corporate-controlled news channels I guess an alligator and an iguana could be mistaken for the same creature.

Of course, common sense should prevail in almost any circumstance, but let’s say for a moment that common sense isn’t really common.

Such was the case Saturday when I had to make a trek to Key West early in the morning to pick up some stuff I can’t get locally. I will always buy locally if I can, but sometimes I just can’t. Thus the early trip to Key West.

The trip down was fine. Traffic was light…too light for a Saturday, but hey, it is off season, and this year off season seems to be very off. I made it there in good time and had plenty of time to make the return trip before my deadline even after picking up the things I needed.

On the trip back, myself and 10 other vehicles were traveling the four-lane in front of the Navy base. All was smooth.

As we approached Rockland Key and the shift into two-lane mode, a large, black Yukon with Wisconsin plates decided that it had to be the first vehicle to make the merge and nailed the gas pedal to get in front of the rest of us.

I gladly backed off. He was much larger than I and I am, after all,a firm believer in the law of gross tonnage.

If you’re not familiar with that law, it goes something like this. The vehicle with the largest gross tonnage will almost always prevail when involved in a skirmish with a vehicle of smaller gross tonnage.

I think that’s why many people from climates north drive vehicles such as Yukons and Hummers. They know they’re going to hit someone sooner or later because they can’t drive on two-lane roads anyway, mostly because they drive vehicles that don’t fit on most two-lane roads, but let’s not inject logic and reason into the conversation, that wouldn’t be a fair way to have a serious debate of wits with an unarmed person. And if they have the vehicle with the largest gross tonnage, they believe they will walk away unscathed.

That’s important if you live your life knowing you’re going to make a grave mistake behind the wheel someday (usually multiple somedays) and whack into unsuspecting people.

So this Yukon got to the front of the line because the others on the road, like me, yielded to the law of gross tonnage.

Of course, Mr. Yukon, from Wisconsin, also seemed to have a morbid fear of driving on two lanes with that behemoth because he ignored the posted speed limit and locked himself in at five miles under.

Though I’m sure the other nine of us in line behind him were frustrated by our decision to yield to gross tonnage after a short distance, it proved to be advantageous to us all to be going slower than normal.

As we were cruising along with no worries, I listening to Luke Bryan tunes, suddenly brake lights began to flash in front of me. And the three cars there in front of me were slowing down…fast.

I had no choice but to smash my foot onto the brake pedal and attempt to stop with all due haste. Had I done any differently, the small sedan in front of me would have been forced to live with the ramifications of the law of gross tonnage.

As it was, I couldn’t stop in time so I swerved onto the shoulder of the road and came to a stop there. As I screeched loudly to a halt, I heard about half a dozen sets of brakes doing the same as mine.  In my rear view mirror I could see that the cars behind me had done the same thing, first to the lane side then the shoulder side. I also heard some rather loud four-letter words coming from open car windows. Mine were shut so I’ll admit to nothing.

Had any one of those cars been a little slow off the draw, we would have been involved in a 10-car pile up that would have blocked US 1 for hours.

The Yukon that started the whole mess was stopped dead in its tracks in the travel lane. The car behind it nailed the gas pedal and went around. None of us could tell why the Yukon had slammed on its brakes for what seemed to be no reason.

I wanted to follow the guy ahead of me, but unfortunately there was a car coming the opposite direction and I had to wait.

That put me at a standstill while Yukon began creeping away from the almost-crash site.

When he cleared my vision to the side of the road, there in all its miniature, bright-green glory, was a young iguana standing still about six inches—six inches—inside the white line. Even in a Yukon, even in a Hummer, maybe even in a tractor/trailer rig I could have avoided that foot-long critter with a simple swerve to the left and still had room to spare.

I couldn’t help myself. I whipped out a single-digit salute, multiple times, as I sped up behind the now swiftly moving Yukon.

Although Cudjoe Key was my destination, I had to go to Summerland for fuel. Guess where Yukon was headed?

Summerland for fuel.

I didn’t want an altercation in the parking lot so I just parked and walked into the store to pay for my gas.

As I passed the guy from the Yukon pumping his gas, he was busily talking to someone on the phone (yes while pumping gas into his vehicle—remember the part about common sense being not so common) telling them that he’d almost been creamed on the highway after he had to slam on his brakes to avoid running over a huge alligator in the middle of the road. And, by the way, do you know what the fine is around here for running over an endangered species?

If I had been chewing anything, I’m sure I would have spit it out.

First, most folks I know would have run over the iguana instead of trying to cause a multiple car pile up to miss it. The little thing would have been little more than a slight bump in the road on one tire, maybe two, and would have been one less invasive species.

Second, it must take someone who’s never watched a nature program, never paid attention in science class, and never read anything about the Keys to not know the difference between an iguana and an alligator.

Third, it takes a real nut job to not recognize the middle of the road, and we really give these folks licenses to drive?

The Yukon guy wasn’t as lucky with at least one other driver he had tried to ram into some other car’s back side a few miles back. A blue sedan came whipping into the gas station lot, stopped, rolled down its windows and flipped two singe-digit salutes out the vehicle at the Yukon driver.

Of course, yours truly couldn’t resist.

“Hey, what he said.”

And up went two middle fingers.

I hate it when I lose control of my hands like that, they just seem to have minds of their own at times……..

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