On the Bridge

He drove along at a comfortable pace until he reached the Tappan Zee Bridge, where traffic came to a complete stop. The sun shone the day's last rays as he sat flipping radio channels, the car idling. After a while people shut down their engines and stepped out of their cars and stood on the bridge. Some leaned against their vehicles and others walked around on the bridge.

In the other direction cars continued to move. The bridge vibrated and shook.

As one and two and three hours passed, he became restless. For a while he was back in the car with the radio on scrolling a.m. stations, looking for news about an accident (or anything else) south of the bridge that would cause the standstill, but he came up empty. He was tired and wanted to get back on the road toward Philly – he had a ways to go yet and time was not on his side. He decided to ask a guy in the next lane over if he knew what was going on.

"Excuse me."

The guy, a burly white man perhaps thirty years old, sweaty, looked up from where he sat against the driver's side wheel of his Ford pick up. "What's up?"

"Any idea why we're stopped?"

The guy shrugged. And stared.

"Alright then." He turned back to his own car, sat up on the hood.

Two more hours passed, slowly. Vibrations started to bother him. Lack of information bothered him. Some people relieved themselves off to the side, and that bothered him. He relieved himself in an empty Gatorade bottle while crouching uncomfortably in the backseat of his car. Luckily he only had to pee.

Some people seemed like they had become friends with others in neighboring cars. Their attitudes seemed to say "we can't do anything about this, we're stuck, so let's chat it up and laugh and joke around."

He felt bad for families with little kids. He heard some kids crying and it made him feel kinda crazy – he wished he could do something to help them but couldn't think of anything he could offer.

The only person he'd spoken with was the burly guy. He thought of trying to become friends with him just to have something to do, but when he looked over in the guy's direction, he didn't like the look on his face. It seemed like the guy was staring at him with a mean sort of look. He stared back. This went on for a few minutes before he found himself getting angry and decided to do something about it.

"What's up man?"

The burly guy seemed surprised. "Nothing. What's up with you?"

"Why you looking at me like that, chief?"

The burly man stood up. "What the fuck you talkin' about, man?"

"What am I talkin' about? What are you talkin' about? Fuck you, man."

"Son, I'll throw you right off this bridge if you say that again. You best just shut your mouth and mind your own business."

Now they stood in each other's faces, the rage having built up within each of them. Their chests were about an inch apart. If either of them were to make a move, things would get ugly pretty quickly….

Just then he heard someone cheering from up ahead. He and the burly man turned to look. People were getting back into their cars. Traffic was starting to move.

He looked back at the burly man and said, "Sorry about that. I don't know what got into me."

The burly man nodded and got into his truck.

He walked back to his car and wondered what had just happened. It was like he'd been possessed for a few minutes, like something crept up inside and made him want to explode. He chalked it up to nerves, the frustration of being stranded on the bridge. The rest of his drive to Philly was uneventful.

7 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I just wanted to write a story about people relieving themselves and using the f word.

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  2. Traffic jams have a way of changing people, especially in hot weather, and not usually for the better either.

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  3. Tense, yes, but I really enjoyed the rendering. There's a long stretch of highway north of where I am that has things like this happen all the time. There's no bridge, but there aren't any exits (or anywhere else to drive) either. You have to take the first available exit and get on the county roads as soon as you can when you notice things slowing down.

    And yeah, people get completely strange in traffic backups. Either they're throwing a tailgate picnic or beating each other up.

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  4. good old Philly friendliness! People look at you funny and it all accelerates from there. from nothing. Add a gun to that mix...

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  5. This reminds me of the traffic jams on I5 on the way to LA. Rush hour traffic is anything but...

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  6. Oh yes, traffic jams will do that to you. Nicely depicted Richard!

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