Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

You’re Not On The Side Of The Road If You’re Standing In The Road

With that title, I feel like this post could be a metaphor for relationships, or career paths, or self-love. But it’s not. It’s just a story about these people who gambled with their life when their car stalled on the expressway.

The husband and I were driving somewhere on one of the expressways in Chicago. It was raining pretty badly, but not so bad that you have low visibility. I think visibility was just the right level that you might not notice a man standing in the road until it was too late.

If you aren’t familiar with the expressways in Chicago, the exit and on-ramps don’t give a lot of space. There’s usually only about 50-100 feet of merging. That’s not a lot if everyone is driving super fast. But it is a lot if your car stalls out and you need to pull over.

For some reason, this man has his car pulled over not on the shoulder, but in that gray area right where the lane splits off for an off-ramp. The back of the car barely fits into the space, and he decides it’s a good idea to stand next to the back of the car. Yes, ladies and gentleman, this man was standing partially in the expressway.

And it wasn’t just him. There were two other people with him. At least the other two had the good sense to stand on the side of the car where the traffic wasn’t. So let me paint this picture for you. It’s raining. A car is stalled right where the expressway splits off into an off-ramp. The car barely fits into that space. Three people are gathered around said car, one on the side where he’s got one leg out in the road like he’s trying to catch a cab in Abu Dhabi or some 1940s movie. And it’s raining. Oh yes, and the hood is up.

People are flying past at 55-75 MPH because it is Chicago after all. I began imagining all sorts of horrible things. I’m talking Final Destination type things. What if the tail end of the car was hit by someone who was going to exit the expressway but changed their mind at the last-minute? It happens all the time in Chicago, and with the rain, they might misjudge the space they have between them and this stalled car. They could hit that car and all three people near it. With the open hood, a spark could ignite and BOOM, now there’s a fiery crash that shuts down three lanes of expressway.

Or maybe he just hits the guy’s leg that’s sticking into the road like a poorly positioned scarecrow who hasn’t yet learned to ease on down the road. Then you end up in jail because this dumb ass didn’t think to utilize the large number of people in the stranded car to push the shit 200 feet. You know what was 200 feet away from him? An underpass that would protect him from the rain and allow them to be fully on the should and out-of-the-way of cars flying by.

I wish I could’ve sent the man a message to let him know to move. That he literally had body parts just hanging in the road waiting for someone to swoop by and amputate one of his limbs. After discussing and agreeing that this man was a complete idiot, the husband and I began contemplating if his friends were complete idiots too. Why didn’t one of them say, “hey, dumb ass, stop standing in the road like a deer with a wish to become jerky and wall art.” Nope, I think the woman was fishing for something in the backseat and the other guy was just standing there looking rather forlorn.

I’d be forlorn too if it was raining and I was in a danger zone and shelter and relative safety was 200 feet away. I’d be making plans for smarter friend recruitment. And I’d be walking my ass to the gas station that was just up the off-ramp at the next corner. I mean it’s Chicago. This death-defying situation did not have to happen.

I was feeling a bit ranty, but now I feel better. Thanks for listening.

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