What About This . . .? By Wayne William Cipriano

Whenever we go anywhere in the car, I always seem to be the one who does the driving. It’s not that I like driving so much (I don’t), or that my control issues extend to operating the car (they don’t), or that my innate chauvinism is showing (it’s not), or that I am trying to acquire the chauffeur “benefits” that we note in every romance novel (ok, maybe that one a little bit). It’s mostly just habituation. It’s always been like that. 

The other day when Rosalie said she’d like to drive to Springfield, I was mildly surprised and completely amenable to her choice. And that was how I got to see and pay attention to so much roadside stuff that I never do when I am concentrating on driving.

I’m not sure how much I saw for the first time, but there was some for sure, as I looked beyond the limits of the highway and off to the sides. Cattle way off on hillsides, deer moving through the trees, lots of houses and barns I never knew were there. And each exclamation of mine at something “new” was met with Roasalie’s somewhat distracted, “Yes, I know…” as she concentrated on her task and I rubbernecked.

I saw a small field in the center of a copse of trees sporting an orange wind sock! Too confined for full-scale airplanes, maybe model planes or drones – or perhaps full-scale helicopters? And what’s the deal with those big orange “beachballs” attached to high-voltage power lines that pass above the trees? I heard they have something to do with reducing the dangerous sympathetic vibrating of the wires, or maybe not. Are they to warn the helicopter pilot of the presence of the wires?

I saw some beautiful bronze metal roofing on a house surrounded by a brand new porch. The house looked like it had been there a while. A pay raise at work for the owner? OR a lottery win? There was a church that popped up in an old store building, and seemed to collect more and more congregants each week, and then it suddenly, or suddenly to my freed gaze, disappeared.

Even if stuff wasn’t “new” to me I had a chance to think about it, not just notice it. Like the electronic roadsigns that now tell us not the distance in miles to the next place of interest, but the travel minutes to reach those places. The electronic nature of the signs suggest they somehow sample traffic density and road conditions (moment by moment?) to make accurate reports. Can that be true? What sophistication! What a wildly extravagant waste of highway funds that could be put to use filling potholes and such!

When we were turning, I saw my old pals, the roadway reflectors. I really like them! They are placed whenever the roadways are resurfaced. I think the orange ones in the center of the road help guide the people who paint the stripes. I’m sure you’ve seen that they are also placing white reflectors on the edges of the roads as well. That’s really helpful as the edges are seldom painted, and at night, around curves, it is easy to lose the edge and find the beginning of the apron – particularly dangerous as some roads have a two foot apron and a twenty-foot drop off beyond it and no guardrails at all.

It doesn’t make that much difference in the daytime, especially those center markings, but at night when you are driving along a dark road, those reflectors, orange and white, are like landing strip lights that invite you to split them and drive in relaxed safety.

I’ve noticed that the orange center reflectors break off and disappear, as I guess, drivers roll over them. I got to wondering why the orange painted center line doesn’t have blank spots where the reflectors were painted over, then broke away. Surely, they don’t touch up do they? I figure the white reflectors will also break away as they are driven over, hopefully after a white, road-edge-defining line has been laid down. Just like the orange ones, I will miss their night-driving assistance.

I have seen, mostly on interstates, permanent reflectors embedded in the road surface, and even though they are less helpful than on secondary roads (everyone is going the same way), they are always welcome, especially the RED ones that alert a tired long-distance driver that the choice we are about to make is a poor one.,

When you are driving along at night, on a two-way road that has steep drop offs at the sides, very narrow shoulders, and no protective guardrails at all, you really appreciate those reflectors, temporary though they may be.

I wonder how many permanent lane reflectors we could buy for just one electronic road sign that translates miles we all understand into minutes that may or may not be trustworthy depending on the software programming and the efficacy of whatever sensors are involved?

Just one of the many things you think about when you are a rubbernecking passenger being chauffeured along. I wonder if I could get Rosalie to wear one of those black uniforms with a spiffy cap?