Reginald Marley (his full name was Robert Reginald Marley, but even if he went with the full Robert instead of Bob, people always said “eyy” and made a joke that they mistakenly believed was original) left the office just as rush hour was setting in. He’d allowed himself an hour to get to the airport, but would still feel better if he could shave it down to half. As a result, he avoided the main roads and major traffic jams, circling around by a route that was longer, yet faster.
At least, usually. This time, to his simmering rage, an old but tidy Opel turned onto the road ahead of him well after the point at which oncoming traffic would be forced to slow down for it, the point after which a turning car ought to wait. The Opel, or specifically the silver-combovered old jerk behind the wheel, had opted not to wait. Reginald shouted a choice few pieces of his mind at the two feet of space he deigned to leave between their two vehicles, then drove at the same distance for three blocks until the old bastard turned off as suddenly as he’d appeared. As a net result, Reginald Marley still arrived at the airport about half an hour early, but exactly seventeen seconds later than he would have.
As another result, the speeding motorcycle cut through the intersection a hundred metres ahead of Reginald and his annoying parade leader, rather than right on top of Reginald alone. Instead of motorcyclist and motorist dying together in a bloody origami of bones and windscreen glass, the former was pulled over by police twelve minutes later and fined, while the latter got to the airport in time to have a cup of coffee and read the paper.
The old gent in the Opel tapped his dashboard, confirmed the lifeline – a twofer, most satisfying – and accelerated towards his next rendezvous.
Christy Blake, middle school teacher, drove the same way to school every morning. She liked to drive fast (although within the legal limit) and sing loud, getting it all out of her system before seven hours of placid calm. She was, although she’d never do anything about it, a really very good singer.
The pair of lavender-haired biddies in the Morris Minor were cruising along in the passing lane at a solid ten under the limit, indicator flashing but with obviously no intention of changing lanes this millennium. Christy muttered to herself but pulled into the slow lane after a stretch, realising that it was actually moving faster. The delay was negligible, and she got to school on time. Half a kilometre ahead of her, a cat made a dash across the highway, cleared the passing lane and was utterly obliterated by a steel-nerved motorist in the slow lane who knew there was no way to avoid the animal as it sprang under the wheels of the four-wheel drive.
Bad news for the cat. Good news – although she never knew it – for Christy. Had she not been caught behind the old ladies in the Morris, she would have been cruising in the passing lane just as the cat streaked from the undergrowth. Naturally tender-hearted, Christy would have swerved, rolled her car and sent it careening into the oncoming lanes. There would not have been enough of her body left in one place for a positive identification, but the evidence of her car’s registration and an assortment of personal items scattered through the offal would have eventually solved the mystery.
Mission accomplished, the sisters traced Christy’s line through to its new, more generous conclusion, dismissed the augury, and merged easily back into the slow lane once Christy had passed the dark smear that was all that was left of the overconfident cat. Maude flicked the indicator off.
Darren Hoyle fumed and honked behind an elderly couple in a huge old Volvo. Together Volvo and Corvette crawled down a construction-beset road near a school, a road that Darren wanted to navigate at rally speeds according to the urges of his woefully underdeveloped genitalia. The Volvo slowed to a near-standstill and indicated for a turn three times, each time the driver changing his or her mind and swinging back into the road to cut Darren off as he surged forward.
One block, and a single aborted turn-off, should have been enough to delay Darren sufficiently, bumping him from his fatal track and onto the path of a living person again, albeit a person who was still a bit of a douchebag. Should have been. But it seemed like each time they tapped him sideways across fate’s railway lines, Darren corrected for it, finding just the wrong way to recover the lost ground and make his way to some new calamity.
In the end, it was simple damage control.
The fourth time the readings shifted, and Mr. and Mrs. Wesson tried to drop back out of their turn to slow him up again, Darren accelerated around them into the oncoming lane. It was empty, but six minutes later he was speeding through another suburb. He thought he was making up for lost time.
He swerved to miss a group of children on the crosswalk, and miss them he did – but he ran into the side of a reversing cement truck. Nobody was killed except Darren, but Darren was comprehensively killed.
The Wessons cancelled the tag and began the search for a fresh case. There’s just no saving some people.
The next time you find yourself stuck behind an elderly driver and lose sixty seconds of your life, consider the possibility that those sixty seconds were the price you had to pay. Sixty seconds to buy an extension of months or years.
A bargain, really.