Beltway Shmeltway, Oyvay!


“Would a thinking human being drive on the Baltimore beltway?” asked a neighbor. “Would a non-gambler gamble?” was the response. Sometimes, however, “ehn brerah” (there is no choice). Whenever my vibel Shirley joins me for a trip involving the use of the beltway (aka as Route 695), her reaction shifts from panic to near hysteria. Nu, she’s right! Let me explain.

To enter the beltway you must increase the speed of your car from 40 miles per hour to 60 mph within a few seconds! This feat is accomplished on a narrow ramp leading to this raging river of cars, and as you enter, approaching vehicles keep you from moving into any space. The average speed on the Beltway is about 70 miles per hour. It is therefore in your best interest to have patience and wait for the traffic to ease up, when you will have a few seconds to act or to vehr tsuzetst (go bananas) waiting for the next opportunity to enter the race course.

Unfortunately, some drivers are authentic reshoim (evil) and refuse to allow any person entrance to the beltway. These chiyess (animals) act as if giving you the right of way is a life-threatening act! Hairst ah geshichteh (can you imagine such a thing)!? Perhaps they fear that their manhood is at risk by giving others the right of way!

When there is finally a pause in the traffic and a lane is available, you can enter the lane, but then you must quickly move into another lane to avoid immediately exiting the beltway!

Once in a blue moon, so to speak, you approach the beltway hoping that a driver will act like a mentch (human). With this thought you inch your way towards another lane and, presto, you have initiated the lane-change chain reaction as vehicles weave in and out of the lanes. 

“Do any vehicles dominate the highway?” you may ask. Avadeh (absolutely). Trucks are the kings of the highway and their drivers fife (ignore) highway rules of safety. If a person follows the speed limit, the trucksters honk their deafening horns and flash their lights. You then have the option of either exceeding the speed limit and getting a traffic ticket or suddenly moving into another lane, risking life and limb as other vehicles approach from behind.

If the driver has some mazel, he maneuvers into a slower lane, but his mazel can become tsuzetst if he drives behind a shlepper (slow poke) doing 40 mph! Remember that on the beltway, a 50 mph driver is at risk! The new challenge is to move into yet another lane, a new dangerous move.

After driving for several miles in this fashion, the driver’s nerves are tsueharget (jangled), so he may initiate an effort to temporarily leave the beltway and drive towards a rest stop. However, vehicles speed through the lanes making it impossible to reach the rest stop. Lane one has a motorcycle gang with German-style helmets (which we Yidden find repulsive). The second lane has huge trucks driving bumper to bumper. The third has a series of daredevil drivers, weaving in and out.

The driver may manage to give a sudden dray (turn) onto one of the lanes, and lo and behold, he soon realizes that he is on Route 95 leading to New York! Oysgehmahtert (exhausted), he finally weaves his way into a rest stop and orders the strongest coffee available (causing a sleepless night a few hours hence). Driving under the influence of coffee creates a new adventure driving as the caffeine-intoxicated driver passes trucks shouting, “Ich hobb deer in bawd (go take a bath)!”

Leaving the beltway is another adventure with a new series of maneuvers. First, the driver somehow swings into the center lane. Next he begins moving towards the right lane, trying to avoid the occasional daredevil or shikur (drunk) who is weaving in and out of lanes, causing bedlam for the other drivers. It is best to stay far from them so as to prevent a new maiseh from taking place: the well known phenomenon of “road rage.” If this is suspected, moving into the other lane can be suicidal. The poor driver may therefore miss his exit and be forced to proceed to the next exit or further! 

Finally, he is able to exit the beltway, but now the exhausted driver must reenter the beltway in order to get home. Ah broch tsue dee poor yawr (woe unto him)! “Beltway shmeltway,” he utters, “never again!” Until next time….

Those who travel on the beltway should probably bentch gommel, the prayer for surviving danger, when they return. Vehr darf (who needs) the mishugas that takes place on Baltimore’s automobile speedway? It’s the kind of challenge we can do without! As for the speeding drivers, zolen zay zich drayen der cup (let them confuse each other) and let us be safe.





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