[no] blood on the highway?

Beautiful weather in Portland today, but strange frequencies on the commuting front that I have to share because this is so fresh in my mind and I haven’t had a chance to really assess it yet.

About an hour ago, I was north-bound on I-205 and witnessed an awful incident of road rage. There was a near-accident in the far left lane, which brought traffic to an immediate halt. Only two cars ahead of me: I saw two vehicles spill open their doors, each producing a very angry young man (one wearing a Carolina blue polo shirt and matching baseball cap, natch…). They traded a couple of f-bombs and then Carolina just snapped and started pummeling the other. Carolina dropped the other kid with a vicious jab to the face before he jumped back into his car, where he feverishly tried to maneuver his vehicle away from the scene (I took note that the car he was driving had no license plates…) while other cars started boxing him in.

Within 10 seconds, the other kid had stood back up, went over to Carolina’s car, and began pounding the roof with two clenched fists, obviously as hard as he could muster to bring them down. By this time, several people ahead of me had jumped out of their cars (to do what, though? I asked myself afterwards; if either of those kids had guns, someone surely would have been shot at point-blank range…); others started honking their horns (again, accomplishing what, though? I wondered later…), and I found myself fumbling for my cell phone to report the incident.

But before I could hit “Send” on my phone, Carolina’s car broke free and tore across the other lanes of traffic, speeding towards the closest off-ramp. The kid who had just been flattened not even 20 seconds ago ran back to his own car and sped off after them. How these cars managed to cross those streams of traffic on the right hand side I’ll never know.

What I do know is how strange and helpless and even violated I felt, still holding the cell phone in my hand before clapping it shut, completely bewildered at what I had just witnessed, muttering out loud, “that’s that.”

Stranger than anything, though, was how quickly traffic resumed to normal freeway speed; literally within the next minute, I was tooling right along at 70 in the passing lane again. Unless Kid B managed to catch up with Kid A somewhere in SE Portland and create an even larger scene than this one (again, this all went down on a major freeway mind you…), the incident only exists in temporal memory amongst the principals and those of us who had to watch their terrible exchange. The freeway bears no memory of these kinds of things, and traffic always resumes.

Next quarter, I’ll inevitably use this memory as a tangent to chase in my Games & Lit class when we discuss the Grand Theft Auto series of videogames. By then, I’ll be able to come up with some hyper-rational way to connect this incident to a larger, more clinical discussion about how we are able to tell the difference between witnessing a beat-down in a videogame and seeing one up close and personal. That makes me sick and sad in a very real way right now; I just saw the most vile parts of two human beings smash up against one another and then speed away like nothing had happened. And by the end of the night (if not the end of this email…), I will have filtered through it and moved on to routine bullshit like fixing dinner and watching American Idol.

Which, of course, begs the most important question of the week: who gets voted off tonight?

UPDATE: Sundance Head just sang Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” on live television.  Oh. Dear. Lord.

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