The setting: The traffic is medium to heavy a few minutes before 4 yesterday afternoon traveling north on Highway 41. I’m in the fast lane about a mile south of the Ashlan Avenue exit. As I glance to my right in preparation to merge into the middle lane, my eye is caught by the actions of a man driving a silver Toyota in the right-hand lane.
The reconnaissance: You know how they say the human eye can capture a detailed read of a situation based on a fraction of a second’s worth of body language? I knew in an instant that the driver in the Toyota was getting ready to spit. And not in a dainty, subdued, excuse-me-while-I-expel-a-small-amount-of-saliva manner. From the way he opened his mouth and hunched his shoulders upward, I could tell he was planning to liberate a huge wad of phlegm.
The realization: With all the above taken in by me in the first fraction of the second, I noticed in the second fraction that the driver’s window was about halfway down. He started turning his head to the left and pursed his lips. He was going to do it out the window, of course. Gross.
The turning point: With a great deal of force, the man spit. I was traveling about 60 mph, and I glanced ahead of me at the road as I eased into the middle lane almost directly next to him. While I was looking ahead, he had sent his mucus on its merry way, and by the time I glanced back, the glob had nearly reached the open window. But the air rushing by would have none of that. Again, seemingly within a fraction of a second, his spit reversed course and, in a sort of a return to the motherland, splatted against his cheek.
The conclusion: I sailed past the Toyota, one lane away, a smirk on my face. (I couldn’t help it.) My last view of the hapless other driver was in my rearview mirror. He had a hand raised to his cheek, wiping off the results of what I’m sure seemed to him like a good idea just a few moments before. Total elapsed time: about 3 seconds, I’d guess. As Jim Croce once sang, “You don’t spit into the wind.”