Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, March 31, 1999

This is your brain
on pavement

I was driving Diamond Head on the H-1 going a tad over the speed limit when I looked up into my rearview mirror and thought my life was about to come to an end.

Charging up behind me was a car going faster than any car I've ever had the displeasure of being in the way of. I mean fast. Maybe faster than 100 miles an hour. It was going so fast there was nothing I could do except hope the driver was not going to give my Ford pickup truck a high-speed Acura enema.

He didn't. He swerved over two lanes and went around me the way the Road Runner outruns the Coyote, which is to say, as if I were standing still.

I thought a lot of things in very rapid order, none of which are printable here, although many of them started with "Holy!" The first thought that came along of the non-expletive variety was, "That is the fastest I've seen anyone drive in a non-NASCAR venue."

So I pulled over to the right lane in preparation for veering off toward the H-3 when damn my eyes if another car doesn't come roaring up my tail pipe like a cruise missile. This guy also was going at least 100 but he couldn't find any legitimate highway lane to zig into. So just before running himself up into my payload bay, he swung to the shoulder and blew by me on non-sanctioned pavement. Then he cut in front of me, which was no easy trick because there was another car there taking up valuable real estate.

Somehow, Speedy Gonzjerko found enough air molecules to share between my neighbor and me and slipped in. Then he flew over one more lane and was gone in a heartbeat. When I say "gone in a heartbeat" I mean at the speed my heart was beating, which was seriously up tempo. Staccato.

I turned to my daughter who was in the passenger seat and said, "Those were the two fastest cars I've ever ..."

About then, a third car came roaring up through the left lanes, going just as fast as the other two, and disappeared out of sight.

"... THREE fastest cars I've ever seen."

I assumed the second car was chasing the first and the third was chasing the second or something stupid like that. All I knew was that they had put at least a few hundred people in immediate danger, not including themselves, toward whom, frankly, I felt no great aloha. Actually, I hated their guts.

I don't know how to stress this. These guys were going fast. Not 70- or 80- or 90-miles-an-hour fast. They were in the hundreds fast. And on the edge of out of control. If a car they passed swerved a bit while the driver changed a CD or if a driver hit the brakes slightly after dropping a cigarette ash in his lap, the speeders would have careened like Hotwheels fired from a slingshot.

"Kids drive like that, someone's gonna die," I said, which is like predicting water is wet.

It was with no joy that I learned of the fatal accident a few weeks later involving two cars full of kids racing less than a mile from where I had had my close encounter. One kid dead, several nearly. I have no idea if it involved any of the kids who whizzed by me, although an Acura figured in both incidents.

It's easy to get preachy at times like these. To wit: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to remember the time I raced my 1973 Buick Le Sabre under a railroad trestle at 80 miles an hour with barely two inches clearance on each side of the car. I was young. I know now such driving was stupid. It still is. End of sermon.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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