I saw flashes of red light in front of me. The two cars that I had been following for the past ten minutes started pumping on their brakes. They had been driving at a pretty high rate of speed, but now were coasting to something just above a walk.
I groaned. I had run smack dab into the middle of the day’s evening rush hour. The good thing about the Covid-19 pandemic, if there is a good thing, is that I haven’t had to deal much with rush hour traffic. I’ve been working from home. The closest I’ve come to traffic in recent weeks has been choosing the same time as my son to take my lunch and having to box him out for kitchen counter space.
Of course, in this situation, I slowed and tried to relax. There was nothing I could do.
In the slow lane
As I played the stop and start game — you know what I mean, hit the gas and then the brake, hit the gas and then the brake and repeat — I thought about another kind of traffic jam from my youth. I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I thought back to when I grew in Central Pennsylvania. We didn’t have a lot of traffic per se, but we still had our share of traffic issues all the same.
Of course, I’m talking about trying to get to school or a summer job and getting stuck behind an Amish horse-and-buggy on one of the many narrow, country roads. It was bad enough getting behind a school bus, but when you got behind a horse-driven buggy with lots of traffic coming the other direction, or stuck on a long, curvy road that didn’t allow you to see far in the distance, you were doomed.
And the buggies seemed to come out nowhere. We lived in the middle of a thriving Amish community that shared the road with tractor trailers and local residents traveling to any number of places. The buggies had their own class system. The color of the buggy let you know which conservative Amish community or sect the family belonged. There were ones with black and yellow tops, white ones too, and even an occasional gray one and they all traveled about as fast as a speedy jog.
In the end, the color of the buggy didn’t matter. As the saying goes, you just had to, yes, “hold your horses.”
The horse pulling the carriage would inevitably hold it’s head high and be trotting as fast at it could — clippity-clop, clippity-clop — but it was still no match for the average vehicle’s 180-200 horsepower engine. As teenagers too, we weren’t exactly the patient sort.
If you were really unlucky on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning, you’d come across two or three horse and buggies, all heading in the same direction to the same family get-together or church service, which made passing them even more challenging. You had to make sure there was nothing coming in the opposite direction and that you could pull back in time, making sure to leave room for the buggy.
To make the situation even more challenging (at least to me), when I came up on a horse-and-buggy, I always seemed to have my father’s voice in the back of my head, reminding me to be careful.
Whenever I got stuck behind a horse-and-buggy for more than a few minutes, I liked to remind myself that I would eventually have a chance to pass. It just made for a lame excuse for being late.
“Tell us again Brian why you were late?”
“Um, yea, I got stuck behind a horse-and-buggy!”