Sunday, February 7, 2010


One morning on Old Connecticut Path in Wayland between Route 126 and Stonebridge Road, I noticed something erratic in the operation of the two white cars in front of me: their brake lights flashed a nervous rhythm as they sped up for a while, braked suddenly, sped up again, braked again. As we proceeded, I sorted out what was going on: the second car was tailgating the first, and the first driver was flashing the brake lights deliberately to get the second driver to back off.

You can't pass on Old Connecticut Path. I watched these feuding drivers from a safe distance until the inevitable happened: the first driver braked suddenly, the second driver failed to stop in time, and a minor fender-bender resulted. From the first car emerged a tall, dark-haired man who might be in his thirties, shouting something like, "All right, now you've done it!" As I cautiously made my way past the two stopped vehicles, I glanced through the open door at the driver of the second car, a very unhappy-looking middle-aged woman who might have been a secretary, administrative assistant or schoolteacher.

If these cars had been driven by a couple of teenagers or twenty-somethings, I would assume they were just being stupid and hope they'd live to outgrow it. Between two adults, one of them an older woman, I have to think there was more going on here than meets the eye.

Why was this woman so determined to exceed the speed limit on a narrow, winding secondary road? Had she left a flatiron on, or forgotten to pick up a grandchild from school? Had she been summoned from work by a call from an ailing husband, or the fire department? And why, after the collision, was she just sitting in the car looking unhappy, and not yelling back, or at least trying to explain?

What's the man's problem? Would it kill him to pull over and let her pass, instead of deliberately provoking an accident? I remember a guy that I guess I cut off on Soldiers Field Road, who surged past me and then dodged in front of me and slammed on his brakes. It took me a minute or so to figure out that he had done it on purpose to get even. Some people take their cars and driving very seriously and have a mission to punish others for driving they don't approve of. Or maybe Mr. Thirty-Something lives on this road and is really tired of watching people speed past the lawn where his children are playing.

Maybe these two know each other; maybe this is the latest chapter in a decades-long neighborhood feud (I once typed a bunch of documents for a lawsuit involving a forty-year war between neighbors). Maybe she's his mother-in-law, or ex-mother-in-law, or becoming-ex-mother-in-law, tailing him for some reason. Maybe she's somehow protecting her daughter and her grandchildren, or thinks she is.

Of course, I never heard anything more about this incident. I sure would be interested to know what it was all about.