The road was slick this morning when I woke up. It was foggy out, pitch black, and the temperature was near freezing. Frost still remained on the road from yesterday. It was 4:30 in them morning. Pulling out of the garage and moving out of the neighborhood, my traction lights flickered several times. Patches of white reflected my lights over the blacktop.
As I approached the freeway, I knew what to expect. It’s always the same, but I forget what it’s like until I’m in the zone. It happens when the visibility drops below a dozen feet and the tail lights of the cars in front of you vanish in the fog. As sixty miles an hour, the best a dozen feet gives you is time to swerve. Anything could be out there in front of me. I don’t know if the tail lights have vanished because of the fog, or because of something else.
And my imagination takes over…
Visions of wreckage come flying out at me through the fog. Images of twisted steel. A pedestrian runs across the road, a look of horror on her face. A dog. A raccoon. A semi going in the wrong direction with its lights off. The fog takes form. The back-end of an Oreo truck. A pallet load of cinder blocks. A Sasquatch. A unicorn with wings.
My stomach is in knots. My foot wants to slam on the breaks, but that’s certain death. My hands grip the wheel. I can feel the spongy plastic as they sink into it. Ahead of me, the real tail lights appear again, and my anxiety flags a little, but then they vanish and it returns with a vengeance. This is insane. I’m on the freeway at sixty miles an hour and I can’t see ahead of me. It’s dark. The roads are covered with black ice. Someone is going to die on this road today, and it might be me. Do I really want to do this?
I think about pulling off the freeway and wimping out. Better a live wimp then a dead moron, right? But I don’t want to. I convince myself that it’s alright. If there were a wreck, it would produce some kind of light wouldn’t it? I’d have some kind of warning. I can see lights through the fog at a hundred feet or more, so I’d have time to let off the gas and slow down without hitting the brakes. I’d have to fight my reflexes, but I’m used to that. I’ve driven in snow and ice plenty of times. I’ve even driven in this before – fog Hell. I can do this. I just have to focus.
Focus is not a problem. I can’t help but keep focus. The visions are the problem. My damn imagination, always so useful for coming up with crazy shit when I need it. Not so good at stopping. My visual cortex, always so helpful at supplying my imagination with a means of expression, now an evil bastard trying to give me a heart attack. A car passes me. Then a Snap-On tool truck. Then a Cintas uniforms truck. Then a hummer. I let them go, watching their tail lights slowly vanish in the distance. As long as I can see their tail lights, I’m alright, I have reference. But they don’t last. Eventually they vanish and I’m alone again. Alone in the black with no visual cues, and only the black fog ahead of me. But I refuse to increase speed beyond sixty. Not in this.
Finally, I reach the exit and get off the dark foggy icy freeway of death. I made it, and the anxiety fades quickly to relief. I know I’ll forget again, and next time it’s foggy, I won’t think about it until I’m on the freeway. But right now, it’s fresh in my mind – the threat of dying any second. I’m lucky to have made it. I hope everyone else makes it too, and that the fog lifts soon. I’m getting a coffee. Black. No creamer this morning. I’ve had enough fog.