I thought the guy in the pickup was going to blow a blood vessel and die right there on Longley Bridge.

At every stop between Auburn and Lewiston (there are an estimated 900 traffic lights between Court Street, Auburn and Main Street, Lewiston) the dude found new fuel for his road rage.

First it was the woman who did not respond quickly enough when the light changed from red to green. Then it was a last-minute lane-changer, and then a man in a Subaru who was driving at tortoise speed across the bridge.

With each new offense, the truck driver’s wrath intensified. He leaned forward, nose pressed to the windshield, and shrieked like a lunatic at those drivers who vexed him. He pounded the horn with a fist and jammed his middle finger so violently in the air, I thought it would drill a hole in the roof of his Chevy.

I followed the man as far as Park Street and then wheeled away from the fumes of his toxic rage. Who needs that kind of vein-popping hostility, am I right? But there was no getting away from it; not in that berserk stretch of days.

For a period of about a week and a half, our entire transportation network — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, possibly a dog or two — seemed to lose its collective mind.

It happens, you know. From time to time, for no discernible reason, a kind of four-wheeled psychosis seems to overcome all who venture out onto local roads. Traffic moves a little faster. Horns blare a little louder and with greater frequency. Mere annoyances become life-changing events and suddenly, that normally sweet old woman in the Buick LeSabre is screaming at you in a four-letter language typically not heard outside prison movies.

You can see evidence of this madness in the sudden spike in serious crashes across the area. Cars start crashing into motorcycles, into pedestrians, into various bodies of water and into each other with dazzling regularity. Sirens seem to wail at all hours of the day and the news headlines are grim.

Whether it’s the back roads of Poland or the buzzing avenues of Auburn doesn’t matter. The seething street sickness spreads like a flu and you can catch it just driving down the street for a gallon of milk. For that week and a half, the whole world sounds like shattering glass and smells of burned rubber.

It seems to be a disease of temperament and one doesn’t have to be sitting in the driver’s seat to suffer from its onslaught.

Last Friday, at a pedestrian accident on Cedar Street in Lewiston, the entire road zeitgeist seemed to be on fire with rage. Witnesses on sidewalks snapped at policemen directing traffic. Cops barked at passing motorists who then barked at pedestrians trying to cross the street.

Even a victim of the wreck was not immune to the ravages of the malady, emerging battered and bruised from a cloud of street dust to snarl at a man who had come to help.

It was madness, I tell you! Motoring madness!

On Thursday, after a poor soul was run down while making his morning coffee run, I was sent to Poland to interview the grieving.

“Careful on the ride out there,” said one concerned friend. “People are driving like idiots right now.”

She wasn’t kidding. That motorcycle ride to Poland was one of the most perilous experiences I’d had on the road all year. At every other intersection, it seemed, cars or trucks were lunging into my path like rampaging beasts of metal and rubber.

Speeding cars swerved in front of me. Pedestrians stepped into zooming traffic like hypnotized fools bent on annihilation. It was like some high-speed carnival game out there where the only goal was to not get dead.

By the end of the lunacy, even farm animals were getting in on the deadly action — on an Auburn back road in the early-morning gloom, two cows played chicken with traffic and lost both times.

It was a deadly week and a half in some spots, merely an aggravation in others. As I do every time the streets turn crazy, I tried to deduce a rational explanation. First of the month when everyone is cashing checks and going hog wild? No. Full moon? Nope. Major holiday? Nuh-uh. Heat wave? Naw.

There’s never any explaining it. Maybe it’s something in the fuel supply, or maybe the brain-frying frequencies of 5G towers. Perhaps there’s a bad batch of air fresheners out there and we’re all stoned on the sweet scent of pine tree.

Whatever it is, I’m sure the little old lady in the Buick LeSabre is genuinely sorry for the mean things she called you.

Or maybe she’s not.

I mean, seriously, friend. Would it kill you to use your blinkers?

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Victims of motorist madness and 5G tower sizzle can email him at [email protected]


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