Bumper car

Here’s a fun little game I recommend you not play: Driving 65 mph on a crowded interstate with a big chunk of particle board wedged against your front bumper.

I took part in this exciting endeavor recently on my way home from work. I travel about 12 miles on interstate to get to my job, and while traffic is usually fairly thick, I’m fortunate to be on the preferred side both coming and going, as the traffic on the opposite side is usually at stand-still at both morning and evening at various points along the journey.

So I was cruising along at my usual speed, with usual traffic. While normally I advocate for the left lane being only for passing, that’s not practical in thick commuter traffic, so I usually stay in the left lane so as not to get caught in back-ups near exits.

As I topped one of the two big bridges I cross, I was behind an 18-wheeler. And in a flash, I heard a weird crunching sound and then saw something shoot out from under its back left tire.

And said something was coming at me. Fast.

In a split second, it smacked against the front my car. And it must have been perfectly balanced, because it just stayed there, peaking about eight inches about the hood of my car. And from what it sounded like, the bottom must have been right at the road because my car was not make that sound similar to when you drive over a tree branch and you drag it along the underside of your car.

Now, admittedly, when the board came flying out, I flinched. But thankfully I only flinched a smidge, and did not jerk the wheel or completely duck out of the picture, both of which would have yielded bad results.

I blame my relative calm on my years of walking through spider webs. Stick with me on this. Most people, when they walk through spiderwebs, do an entertaining (to others) dance/flail designed to get the spiderweb (and more importantly, the spider) away. However, I’ve spent a lifetime in the woods, and I’ve walked through more spiderwebs that I can count. And when I do walk through, my brain is just trained to calmly say, “Hey, spiderweb. May wanna get that off you at some point. Also, maybe we can ID the spider, ok?”

So I’d like to think spiderweb brain kicked in.

I stayed steady, keeping in my lane, and watching the piece of plywood, knowing that if it somehow came up a smidge and started heading toward my windshield, I was going to have go beyond spider brain and channel full-on Spider-man to dodge it. But keep in mind I was on a bridge. A very crowded bridge. And since all of the physics factors in play were keeping the board in place, I figured I was OK for the time-being if I kept all of that the same. And by my estimate, the next exit was about two miles away. Two minutes of holding steady. We can do this.

After about a minute and a half, I approached the exit. There was a decent gap in traffic, so I eased over to the right lane. As I slowed, the physics changed, and the board lost its perfect balance. I saw the protruding eight inches start to descend, and then woosh – it was gone. For whatever reason, my car didn’t kick it up, fortunately, but rather shot it to the shoulder.

I considered getting off at this destination and checking the damage, but opted to skip to mine a mile or so down the road. Might as well wait until I’m home to see the carnage.

And when I got home, I exited my car and saw, well, not much. A couple of small scrapes and some big, dusty splotches that were wiped off by hand.

In the end, it turned out OK. That said, I don’t want to do it again. I’ll find a different game to play on my commute home.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at


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