A few weeks back I was driving north on U.S. Highway 2, heading to Glacier to report on a Flathead Basin Commission meeting. Passing out of Evergreen, I was in the left lane, keeping my eye on a developing situation a few yards ahead. In the right lane, a truck had two portable latrines, perched upright, side by side, on the rear of the flatbed. It didn’t look as if the latrines were secured all that well, and they swayed and bounced in the wind as the truck sped north.
Wobbly, possibly full Port-a-Johns speeding up the highway at 65 miles-per-hour will catch any driver’s attention, especially if you’re behind it. But to my astonishment, someone was tailgating this truck! In a small sports car, some fool was about 6 feet behind, and practically beneath, the tottering latrines. I can’t say why, maybe the tailgater had never been to a concert, and thought the latrines were some new form of prefab outdoor closet units. Who knows.
You know what happened next. The truck bounced; the wind gusted and both latrines tipped backwards and fell onto the road. I saw it coming and had already slowed down, providing space in the left lane for the tailgating cretin to swerve, without looking or signaling, in front of me (like I knew he would) while the truck now dragging two (blissfully empty) latrines down the highway jerked his wheel to the right onto the shoulder, pulling into a parking lot and coming to a stop.
Just another day on the road in the Flathead. I’ve only lived in Montana a few years, and don’t pretend to know every corner of the state. But without a doubt, the most reckless, dangerous drivers I have ever seen in Montana live in the Flathead. Don’t try to blame it on out-of-staters. Every time I witness another driving debacle I scope the plates and they are always Flathead tags. Once in a while you get stuck behind a tourist going too slow as they search for the restaurant, antique store or hotel. But the speed freaks are Montanans.
It’s not unusual, as I drive home from Rosauers along 11th Street on Kalispell’s west side, to have someone pass me on the left doing 40 miles-per-hour along the residential streets where there are no stop signs at many of the intersections and small children are usually out playing on their lawns, riding bikes or skateboards.
Walking across the street in downtown Kalispell last week a truck driver honked at me to get out of his way even though he still had a red light. When I shot him a look, he just had this blank stare on his face. Crossing Baker Ave. heading west on East 2nd Street in Whitefish, drivers in the opposite direction making a left toward the bridge take their lives in their hands and make the turn as if they have a green arrow when they don’t, regardless of how many cars are simply trying to cross Baker.
I’ve lived in New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and Atlanta. New York and Boston have insane drivers, but when someone nearly kills you by cutting you off to make an exit ramp, at least you can understand what they were trying to do. In Atlanta, people drive in utterly inexplicable ways: Someone may swerve in front of you, nearly kill you and themselves on Atlanta’s 12 lane downtown connector, and it’s still utterly unclear what they were trying to do.
Flathead drivers are somewhere in between. I don’t understand what possesses anyone to tailgate a load of Port-a-Johns or speed through a residential street full of blind intersections, but it has to be one of the worst things about living in this valley.
There, I feel cleansed.
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