Friday, September 23, 2005

bottleneck

Raka had planned to beat rush hour traffic but luck was definitely out. Everything now moved at a crawling pace. Alternately she sped up and then swung her foot back hard on the brakes. It was no use, this restlessness. The driver ahead flashed his break lights twice to show his irritation. Yeah, she knew he couldn't go any faster... The new pumps pinched her feet and it did not help to improve her mood. She felt rather warm too. Her car airconditioning wasn't working. Now that autumn was here, Raka had decided to ignore the AC problem until next spring. AC s were always cranky at the end of winter...

Her mind wandered a few moments backward. Today she had had a flat while driving on the interstate! It had been a first and it had been very enervating. When the peculiar dragging sort of noise just begun, she had instinctively looked around to see whoes car was it.. surely not hers! Then she watched dismayed as her car started losing speed. At the last minute, she swerved onto the curb on the left cutting accross the HOV lane. A serious accident could have happened in those seconds. Her heart was pounding with excesses of adrenalin. The right rear tyre had burst she discovered, after getting out of the car. Just her luck.. Calm down, Raka admonished herself.

For a few brief moments, helplessly, wistfully, she looked at the cars rushing by. No one stopped ofcourse. She tried telling herself, you can handle this. But did she have a spare at all? She checked in the trunk and couldn't find it. The towing company will charge a forty bucks minimum, she groaned inward. In a moment of inspiration, she looked under the mat in the trunk and located the spare. Some what boosted, she pulled the parts out on the road. Uncomprehendingly she turned the wheel brace and the jack in her hands. She had no idea what she was supposed to do with these things! Then she remembered the car manual and went to get it from the glove compartment. The manuals were so tersely written! She never had much patience with instruction manuals. As she crouched on the curb wrestling with the bolts on the hubcap, she was intensely afraid of the cars inches away going at 70+ miles per hour. She was ready to cry out in frustration. Thank God, the safety patrol guy got there when he did! Or she would be still there on her hands and knees. All in all, she was delayed 45 minutes and now stuck in peak time traffic. A dust mark from the roads on her black skirt proved impossible to brush off. She rubbed it with a bit of spit for the umpteenth time...

She was itching for a cigarrette she did not have. From an ocassional smoker she was now fighting a losing battle with the habit everyday. She longed for a release from this feeling of being cornered, but it was inescapable. It does not matter, she tried to tell herself. You will get there when you will get there. She pulled her windows down to let the breeze in and cool her down. A child was crying out loud. Raka looked at the car in the next lane from where the voice came. A distraught mother was looking at her crying baby in the car seat behind but did not know what to do. Why doesn't she pull over?, thought Raka. Some loud music was coming from the car ahead of her two lanes away. Some teenager probably - they listened to those songs at all hours of the day! A toyota camry rolled to a stop by her side. Oh, its the same one, she realized. She had been watching this woman put her makeup on for quiet a distance now. Imagine doing that on the highway! God, she'd get there faster from the city roads! What exit was it anyway? Only 32. Hers was 47. She wondered if she should sneak in to the HOV. No, she'd probably get caught. There were cops around this road all the time. Wasn't worth the trouble, she reckoned. Anyway she wasn't supposed to speed on the spare tyre. She wondered about how much it will cost to buy new tyres.. so much for putting the AC work away. But it couldn't be helped. You can only do so much to protect yourself.

Her exit came at last, not a moment too soon. She let out a slow breath of relief. Her mood began to improve as the car picked up speed and she rest her foot uninterrupted on the accelerator.

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