Will Edwinson

Author & Storyteller

Roadway Lemmings

There’s an old game we used play as kids called follow the leader.  I don’t exactly remember all the rules of that game, but  as I drive around various parts of the country, I find that the basic premise of the game doesn’t change much as we grow into adulthood, especially when it comes to some people’s little driving quirks.  People show a certain behavioral   resemblance to that of Lemmings.

One day not long ago, I was driving in Tucson. I was in the right hand lane when I came upon a traffic signal that was showing red.  The driver to my left was the lead car in his lane.  We had been sitting there maybe twenty seconds when he started creeping ahead as if to say,  “O.K., traffic light, it’s time to change to green.”  He gained about six feet with this little maneuver, and the other cars behind him dutifully moved ahead their respective six feet following the leader, just like lemmings.  I decided to time the traffic signal to see if his urging had any immediate effect.  It didn’t. Undaunted by his urging, the signal remained red for another forty-five seconds.

Lemming Facsimile

Lemming facsimile rodent image courtesy of Tina Phillips/Freedigitalphotos.net

This lemming effect brought to memory another incident of a few years ago when I still lived in Idaho.  I was traveling to Salt Lake City on Interstate 15.  It was a clear, pleasantly warm Fall day, and somehow the traffic became bunched into a caravan of evenly spaced cars all traveling about 70 miles per hour.  I was the lead car of this group when five cars pulled out and passed me(another incident of the Lemming effect as you will soon see).  This left me still leader of the group, but the nearest car was now about a quarter mile behind.

As these five  cars passed I looked at the license plates.  One was from Madison County, one from Ada County, a couple were from Bannock County—all Idaho cars—and a lone Utah plate.   At that time, there was a construction project on I-15 starting a few miles north of Malad City, Idaho, continuing to the Idaho-Utah border.  It was at this construction project that this “lemming” effect again manifested itself.

As we approached Malad City there began a series of road signs, the first of which stated: Samaria exit closed, use Malad exit.  (Now bear in mind, folks, those signs were only intended for those people who wanted to go to Samaria–not for through traffic.) A little farther down the road there was another sign that read: use Malad exit.  Farther, still, the next sign read: Malad exit.

Now, I will admit that the placement of those dastardly “orange” barrels that we’ve all grown to hate these many past years, and  that were supposed to direct “through” traffic, was a bit confusing, but not that confusing.  All five cars I mentioned earlier that had passed me, peeled off at the Malad exit.

I remember thinking:  “That seems odd.  Five cars from four different locations converging on the little town of Malad City at the same time on the same morning. I wonder what’s happening in Malad this morning?  I dismissed the thought and continued on my way down the Freeway.

A little later, I looked in my rear view mirror, and lo and behold, what did I see?  Nothing! The entire caravan of cars that was previously behind me was gone!  There was not another car back there for miles.  Evidently, like lemmings, they must have all obeyed the signs, and followed each other right into Malad City.

My first thought was that it might have been a funeral procession, but then I remembered; none had their lights on, and there was no hearse in the lead. I can only imagine what the people of the quiet little village of Malad City thought when they witnessed all these cars converging en masse upon their town.  As Art Linkletter used to say, “People are funny,” and sometimes allow themselves to be led into strange situations.  I’m assuming  all those highway lemmings eventually found their way back to the freeway.

Now, if you’d like a little enjoyable summer reading, why not follow me up to upper right of this page and click on the free download button for a free copy of my book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, and immerse yourselves in a short two hour respite from today’s harrowing world with Buddy and Mont as they gather beer and pop bottles from the roadside barrow pits for spending money; or join them in the river swimming hole for a swim; or go fishing for carp with them in the irrigation canal.  Or witness Buddy’s narrow escape from the Grim Reaper.

—Will

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