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WOSTER: Beep, beep — A farm kid on the freeway

We spent several days driving up and down and around the greater Denver area this past week, and my performance behind the steering wheel got me honked at by other motorists once.

OK, twice, to be literal. But both fits of honking came during the same general maneuver on I-70 as I attempted to choose the correct lane for the airport route, so I consider it one time. That's pretty good for a country kid in a city full of vehicles, all of which are carrying people who seem to need to be someplace in a big hurry.

Whenever I'm in heavy traffic, I want to shout, "Hey, slow down. Smell the roses.'' I don't, because nobody would listen. Besides, if someone did hear me, it would probably spark a road-rage incident. I've read about those things.

Funny thing about that business with the other driver honking at me. I earned the first honk. I sure did. I moved into the right-hand lane without allowing enough time between my signal and my lane switch. Beep beep. It sounded like the horn in that '50s song by the Playmates about the guy in the Nash Rambler who tries to get the attention of the guy in the Cadillac. ("Beep beep. Beep beep. His horn went beep-beep-beep.'') I was at fault, and I felt bad.

Safe in the right lane, I realized I should have stayed in the left one. I signaled and moved back to the left. Again with the beep beep. Same guy as he sped past me. That one I didn't deserve. I got out of his way, right? Even so, I felt like a stranger in a strange land, a farm boy on the freeway.

I did think to myself, "That fellow is going to stress out if he doesn't lighten up behind the wheel.'' I'm pretty sure Nancy thought that a time or two about me during our trip, but for the most part, I was relatively restrained for a guy who was totally out of his element.

I can't explain why my anxiety level rises in city traffic, especially a place like Denver where we've been visiting regularly for years. It's understandable for me to be a bit unsettled when we're heading to some part of town we haven't visited before. It would be strange if I weren't a bit anxious, wouldn't it? But even when we're heading someplace familiar, like our kid's house or that DSW we favor just off Colorado Boulevard, I get nervous as I watch the exit signs flash past. Maybe I just worry that they've moved exits since our last visit. "Now, I know we got off on Orchard and took a left last time, but what if all of the streets got switched since then?'' It isn't for nothing that I'm my fretting-mother's son.

During our stay, we had a chance to experience one of those self-driving cars. Our son took us for a ride, and the thing actually worked. It stayed in its lane, kept its distance from other cars, followed its heading toward the programmed destination. I never saw a car so slick. Our son kept his hands lightly on the wheel but pretty much gave the vehicle its head, even in the traffic on I-25. I wasn't that trusting in my stint behind the wheel. I'm pretty sure that marvelously engineered car has better reflexes than I do, but I couldn't work up a trust relationship. But, then, I never gave my cousin's saddle horse a free rein, either, and that critter knew where it was going much better than I did.

On our trip home late last Tuesday, trying to beat the big storm to Pierre, I should have received a couple of beep-beeps. A ways south of Valentine, Nebraska, well after sunset, I realized the automatic high beams on the car weren't working. As I wondered why that might be, an approaching pickup flashed his brights furiously. After he roared past us, Nancy said, "Um, your headlights aren't on at all.''

I'd have forgiven that pickup driver if he had resorted to a honk or two.