Friday, February 4, 2011
Time to Say Goodbye to the HOV
I sat in my car, pretty much parked on 114. Not unusual for a weekday afternoon at the peak of rush our in Dallas. I flipped through the dials trying to decide on a piece of crap Jonas Brother Red Jump Suit Fall Out song or talk radio. I decided on a talk radio station, hoping maybe I'd get a little info on the traffic. I was guessing it wasn't a wreck but if there was one further ahead, now was the time to strategize.
It was then I saw them. Not that this day was different than any other day but for some reason they stood out to me. The HOV lane people. One by one they flew by me, smiles on their faces as if laughing at the rest of us. I looked to my right at a fellow traffic jammer who, like me, seemed to have accepted this everyday nuisance.
Back to my right a red Toyota of some type sped by at about sixty. The blur of a possibly teenage kid in the passenger seat, ignoring his adult driver, got me to thinking. What the hell are these lanes for and why do we have them! Oh, I know why they were started and I appreciate the effort. I was first introduced to this concept as a teenager in Los Angeles after receiving my drivers license. These "extra" lanes were used to lure, perhaps even bribe people to share rides. The idea being to entice fellow workers to share rides to to the office, cutting down on fuel consumption, reducing the number of cars on the road and as a side benefit, getting to know Tom from accounting a little better.
On paper, not a bad idea but after one ride with Tom from accounting I decided the extra time on the freeway was just fine with me. What has happened is these lanes reward people who just so happen to have more than one person in the car. They aren't trying to save gas and they're not looking to save our planet. They just so happen to have someone in the car with them. And as I sat in my car, burning fuel and swallowing mouthfuls of exhaust I watched the HOV people speed by and realized nine out of ten were nothing more than a mom with her kids, what looked like husbands with their wives, a cable company work truck with two guys in it, and other various forms of "shared" rides.
I wondered how many, if any of these now annoying cars flying by me at what seemed to be mach one speeds, actually got together and decided it would benefit them to share a ride to work, thereby helping our planet and contributing to this new "green" movement.
I got home and decided to do a little research after pouring myself a scotch. What I found surprised me. In Dallas you are allowed to drive your Hummer, Expiditor, or any other gas guzzling monster in these special lanes as long as you have a passenger. The age of the passenger makes no difference, thus allowing a mom to drive her children in the HOV lane. What's not allowed are hybrid cars. Of course, they are if you have a passenger, but not by yourself. Regardless if your vehicle gets twice the fuel mileage and has a much lower emission, you're screwed. In Los Angeles it is OK for those driving hybrids to use the "diamond" lane.
The more I sat and the more I drank the more pissed off I became. These lanes are paid for by me, Mr. Taxpayer, and I should be entitled to use them. Why am I stuck in four lanes of traffic when there are five good lanes to use? I also learned the National Motorist Association agrees with me! This needs to end and I decided I would make a stand.
The next day, after being yelled at by my boss and a pissed off customer, I found myself again sitting on 114 doing eight miles an hour. I glanced to my left at the open lane. The only thing separating me from seventy miles an hour were two white lines that for some reason did a better job than barbed wire at keeping people out of somewhere they didn't belong. I knew there were fines if you were caught but the more I stewed the bigger my balls got. I thought back to great people like Rosa Parks who took a stand and changed our nation and felt invigorated. If I was ever going to make a statement, here was my opportunity.
I squinted into my side mirror and saw only one car, an HUV, barreling down the lane and decided I'd make my move as soon as it passed. The oversized Subarban sped by, shaking my tiny Kia, and I punched it. Zero to sixty in a little under fourteen seconds but the feelings of freedom enveloped me. I had the same feelings when I first moved out of my parents house into my own apartment.I sped down the highway, hoping others would be encouraged to do the same but knowing they had no clue as to my new movement I just launched. I had forgotten to put together any type of marketing campaign but that could come later.
I found myself fifteen minutes ahead of schedule when the blue and red police lights lit up behind me.
"You do know you're driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane?" the officer asked me.
"Is there a medical emergency or any other reason you're needing to speed?"
He looked at me slightly puzzled as he asked for my license and registration. I did my best to explain my actions but was for the most part, ignored. But I signed my ticket, agreeing to pay the four hundred dollars but considering it a badge. An expensive badge, but a badge. Movements start with a sacrifice. Whether it be the death of a patriot, the incarceration of a protester or a four hundred dollar ticket, someone needs to shoulder the responsibility and that someone is me!
It has now been two weeks since my ticket and and haven't seen an increase in HOV drivers. For no other reason than I can't afford another four hundred dollars, I sit on 114, stuck in traffic with my fellow commuters. But as I sit and glance in my side view mirror, I see it! Holy shit, I see it!
A red Corola, three cars behind me, broke across the two white lines and was free! As he sped by me I shoved my arm out the window and shake my balled up fist in allegiance, a smile on my face. I only caught a glimpse of the man when he first passed. Balding dark hair, light colored suit and a smile. I got a better look at him when officer "stay out of the HOV lane" had him pulled over about a quarter mile up.
As I slowly approached, the man looked me in the eye and nodded. Was he just acknowledging me or did he know? Either way I knew it was time. Time to open the HOV lanes that continue to keep our afternoon traffic congested and piss of the masses so to you, Texas Legislators, I say this.
"Tear down the double white lines!"