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Jeff Whitten: An ode to interchanges
editor's notes

I stopped for gas at the Highway 204 and I-95 interchange late the other night before I remembered that stopping for gas that late at night at that particular interchange is not a good idea. Of late it tends to fill up with weirdos and people in pajamas who make weirdos look normal.

Maybe it always has, I just didn’t notice.

Anyhow, I was filling on up when a lanky fellow in a baseball cap and mullet strolled past using what looked like a machete to sharpen one end of a very long stick.

I didn’t ask him why, or what for, or any of the other W’s we reporters are supposed to be trained to ask. If I have learned anything worth knowing in all my years of being a hack weekly newspaperman, it’s that some things are best not known.

Not that the Highway 17 and I-95 interchange in Richmond Hill is a barrel of fun.

Hopefully the city’s Tax Allocation District revenue includes plenty of money for driver’s education – or at least a good frontage road or two. Or some kind of super road trampoline that lets you shoot cars with Ohio and Michigan plates off into the pine trees every once in a while just to keep everybody on their toes.

Tuesday, I got off 95 onto 17 and headed north but had to hit the brakes before I’d barely gone 40 feet because the driver of a semi with a long trailer decided to make his own hole in traffic and commenced to a do a U-turn from the off ramp of 95 north onto the on ramp of 95 north.

It was interesting and came amid much weaving and zigging and zagging and dodging by the limitless supply of Floridians on wheels who seem unable to slow down until they nearly hit something. If Florida is so great why don’t they stay there instead of driving back and forth from New York?

I don’t know.

“ARRRRGH,” I said, as I waited to resume my journey, “Help.”

“Look it that,” my alter ego told me. “You haven’t been in Richmond Hill two minutes and you’ve already got road rage. Relax. Take a deep breath.”

I did. And while I was counting to 10 at the red light at Harris Trail I pondered things that needed a ponder.

For example:

• Who is it exactly that guy in the red baseball cap on the Canady’s AC billboard at I-95 and 144 saluting?

• Why is a house that sold in my mother’s neighborhood a year ago for about $119,000 now going for $215,000? It’s essentially the same house, just a year older. My mother is astonished. As am I. After all, as Americans we tend to view as bad things increases in the price of fuel, food, clothing and other necessities of modern life, yet accept the spiraling cost of shelter as an investment. It doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe that’s why I’m usually broke and my wife has all our money.

Money and the mysterious ebbs and flows of markets mystify me.

• Did I really have to eat all 10 of those Food Lion boiled eggs at one time?

• Where have all these people come from and why are they here? Why am I here? What accidents of physics and chemistry and history and barometric pressure and DNA and a date night in the Upstate of South Carolina back in 1961 and all that came before and after conspired not only to put me on this spinning blue and white and green marble but led me to be sitting at Harris Trail all these many years later, waiting on a red light and wondering whether it is traffic that has lost its mind or me? And will I ever learn to play a real trumpet?

• If everybody tired of Coastal Georgia’s over development got together and filed a class action suit against the people responsible – all of them – for trying to turn this once undiscovered jewel into some Spanish-moss covered version of Metro Atlanta would it pass muster? Could we get an injunction to stop the malfunction junction’s popping up all over the place? Could we at least have Pooler expelled to Florida?

• Finally, how much of an idiot did I look like Sunday when I stomped down to the edge of my driveway and mean-mugged the driver of an obnoxiously loud red Corvette running laps up and down my street like it was a part of Daytona’s Speed Week? I’m 60 years old and 5-foot-6. I have a big balding head, pot belly, no hindquarters, short scrawny legs and at the time I was wearing baggy shorts, crocs with socks and a South Carolina Gamecock sweatshirt, for crying out loud. The driver probably thought I was some kind of mini Bigfoot. Or ET.

Fortunately, the Corvette driver didn’t stop.

He didn’t come back for another lap either. I probably looked so ridiculous he thought he’d wound up at the Highway 204 interchange in broad daylight by mistake.

Whitten is editor of the News.

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