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Jeff Whitten: Wrong way me
editor's notes

If you were heading west on Highway 144 around 11 a.m. or so on Tuesday and followed some yahoo in a pickup into the wrong lane of traffic and had to turn around and backtrack over to the right lane before you got run into, well, that yahoo in a pickup was me and I apologize.

Here’s what happened.

I was heading back to the office after covering the Bark Park ribbon cut on an expansion paid for by Bob Mock’s philanthropic devotion to his fellow creatures. I was following the traffic cone mess west on 144 somewhere on the other side of a big curve when all of a sudden it looked like the lane I was supposed to be in veered left and away from a bunch of men and machines, so I went left and several other folks behind me went left too.

Then I realized I was going west on eastbound asphalt, a realization helped by some construction guys hollering and waving hats at me and everybody else from behind their traffic cones.

Luckily nobody was coming in the other direction, so we were all able to get turned around and get back in the right lane. As I got reoriented, I had my window down and sort of yelled out to one of the crew working on the road, asking him “where the hell the road was,” and he pointed “over there,” and then said something to the effect that “once one goes the wrong way they all go the wrong way,” so I responded something to the effect well that “one dumb### was me,” and went off none the worse for wear.

But it has reminded me again that one of my pet peeves about road work in this state – remember, I’m a native South Carolinian, and we naturally do everything better than Georgia except when it comes to college football, and we’re working on fixing that – has long been the lack of clear direction when it comes to construction zones. This is particularly galling on I-95 when wall-to-wall traffic is going 75 mph and then suddenly there’s a sign that traffic will narrow itself down a lane or two in a couple miles and everyone is supposed to fend for themselves.

This invariably sets off some sort of race or scrum, with people who in other circumstances are probably prone to kicking dogs and cheating on their wives and income tax going around and cutting in front of more decent folk like you and I, and so on. In fact, I suspect if you really want to judge a man’s character, look at how he drives through a construction zone in Georgia.

Naturally, I am not sure how to fix it, because I am an editor and by law we are not allowed to fix things, only complain about them. But it seems the state could require contractors to have referees or armored fighting vehicles out there to not only keep order but also make sure we’re headed in the right direction.

That said, this is not how this column was going to go, so I decided a brief sort of explanation on how I write these things might be in order, in case anyone else is apt to hold one against me. It starts with a walk, you see.

It used to start with a run, back when I ran. And though never very fast, I did 5Ks and 10Ks and a half marathon and a full marathon, and the double pump at the Savannah Bridge Run a few years ago, wearing my friend Bruce McCartney’s yellow compression socks with the word BEER written on them. It’s a wonder my feet didn’t turn purple and fall off from lack of circulation.

But anyhow, the miles began to add up and my undercarriage and tie rods and ball joints and stuff I can’t pronounce or spell began to break down. That affected my “form,” to use what I think is a running term and slap quote marks around it. It also hurt.

My wife said that pain made me run even funnier than I normally run, which I admit is highly entertaining to the lowbrow among us, me included. Worse, my wife said people in the neighborhood were starting to feel sorry for me, my wife said, not unkindly. She shared some of the kinder thoughts from those who spotted me jogging. I paraphrase: “Why is his head going that way and arms that way and his legs going the other way? Did he have a stroke?”

“Did one of his buttocks break? It looks so horrible, doing its own thing over there.”

“Poor Jeff, bless his heart. You’re wonderful to let him out of the house like that. If he was my husband I’d get power of attorney and have him locked up in the shed. But one thing though. Does he bite? He looks as if he might.”

I got the message and stopped running and began walking – about four or five miles every couple days, though some days I get over to the local Planet Fitness and row for an hour.

I wear a weight vest when I walk, which kind of makes me look like a special needs suicide bomber.

That said, the people in our neighborhood know me and stay indoors while I’m coming through. Apparently, they are aware I might snarl at them if they try to start up a conversation.

Now, please note I am not good at conversation with people I don’t regularly talk to because I am genetically antisocial and can’t chat. I get the vapors.

I have had nice people say nice things to me and my brain locks up and I say something totally unrelated and probably weird. It’s why I’m such a hit at civic club lunches. The standing in line for the buffet part with someone I hardly know usually does me in.

“Hi, I enjoyed your story on (insert something I’ve written about here).”

“Oh, really? Well, I have these strange mauve warts, you know. Kind of scaly ones where nobody looks.

Six of them, or maybe only two. I don’t know. Do you have warts? Of course you don’t, sorry. Hmm, is this chicken? Yes indeedy. Nice talking to you.”

Back to walks.

I will wake up some Mondays with no idea at all what my slice of the opinion page is going to look like.

Sure, there are times I am tempted to tell you how to behave, or how dumb the other political party is, but then I figure everybody else is so busy telling you how to behave or how dumb people they don’t agree with are you don’t need to me to be doing the same thing. Besides, frankly, I’m getting tired of being told how to act or reading the fault finders pointing fingers at the other side.

We would be a better off country if people would worry about their own behavior instead of everybody else’s. I suspect that’s me kind of like telling people how to behave, so never mind.

Anyway, it is while I am walking that things start to happen. It is usually about the second 1 mile lap, there by a family who keeps a spiffy looking Alpaca in the backyard (I’m told by our neighborhood detective they were going to keep pigs, too, but one of their neighbors ratted them out, sadly).

There, the old brain synapses finally start firing this way and that and I start thinking what might go into this spot.

This Monday, I was mainly going to write a long epic poem about events that require a lot of hobnobbing and goobersmoochery, which is also known as networking or, in the Army circles I moved in 30 years ago, eating some cheese or sucking pond water. You see a lot of that in my business, for some reason.

No, people don’t hobnob me much, mind you, because I’m small potatoes and I have a large head that looks closer than it is. That not only puts people off, it makes it hard to find a comfortable hat, and I love a good hat.

I digress.

I am not much in demand socially, but I get asked occasionally to cover events involving others who are into a good old fashioned hobnob and goobersmooch.

I suspect that is what name tags are for, so one knows who one is hobnobbering or being hobnobbered by, and the hobnobberee in return knows who is doing the hobnobbery, or something.

It is like Jabberwocky or Beowulf or the Iliad, but with a Rotary club thrown in.

And, not being in the know, I can only assume that is what it is all about with regard to name tags.

And that’s fine. I don’t need to know and I usually forget to wear a name tag when someone makes one with my name on it. Not only do I know who I am, but in the case of hobnobbery and goobersmooching, ignorance really is bliss.

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