It's that time of the semester -- Grade-a-thon -- as we finish up the rushed 7½ weeks of the Summer-II Session here at Western Michigan University. My PHYS-2070 University Physics II class, Electricity & Magnetism, is now done. The Final Exam was Friday. We are so ahead of the usual curve here. Admittedly, I have just 41 students instead of twice that many, but except for one double-quiz and the Final which are being done by my grader, and the Science Literacy book reports which I am doing now, I've got all the other grades, re-grades, corrections and turned in late scatter-gather quizzes, graded and recorded in the spreadsheet. That has got to be a record for me. (grin)
I've even done 17 of 40 papers. Time for a nap, before my eyes close for me.
But that's not what this post is about. Instead, I think it was Tuesday's drive in, about 9:52am EDT, as I was heading south out of Grand Rapids on US-131, heading up the hill past the exit for 84th Street, I saw something slithering across both lanes of the highway. Minivan ahead of me half drove onto the paved right shoulder, but I was going to have to move over a bit further -- and of course I was on the brakes -- to avoid running over...?
A spinning ladder. A two-section aluminum extendable ladder, which had spun on the pavement and now came to rest across all of the left-hand southbound lane and most of the right-hand. Just about perfectly perpendicular to the flow of traffic. There was plenty of time, relatively speaking to dump a lot of my speed before hitting the rubble strips on the right shoulder. I had no intention of running over an aluminum ladder at 70 mph and I also didn't want to hit the shoulder, paved though it might be, at 70 mph given that it was likely to have stones and other trash.
So no problem. Hazard avoided. Though there was plenty of southbound traffic behind me, and ladders don't sprout legs and walk themselves out of the way, so I hoped that those behind me could see that two vehicles had just dove onto the shoulder to avoid something.
Ah, But The Idiots
Of course as I'm passing the ladder on the right at 40-50 mph, there's some import SUV crossover clattering over the ladder in the left hand lane at 70+ mph. Nailed it good, so it just made a lot of noise, but didn't spin out to whack me or anything. Near as I can tell, no attempt to slow down or move to the right or left. Hmm, pay attention to one's driving much? I don't know if the driver was actually on the phone or whether that's just wishful/evil thinking from several days out on my part. (grin)
In that driver's defense, though, I did notice that further up the hill on the left-hand shoulder was a blue pickup truck -- and it was starting to back up. One would suspect that he's the one who lost the ladder. And he is the one I wish to vent my ire on.
See -- I didn't see any sign on the ladder that it had a red flag tied to either end. Or at least not a big one or a very visible one, a very common complaint of mine. And this pickup truck had no ladder rack, just the usual 8-foot bed. And given that this ladder, unextended, was nearly two full lanes wide, that tells me that the damned thing was too long for that pickup truck bed, which means it was probably just tossed in the back and sticking out over the tailgate, unsecured. Which means this was an accident just waiting to happen. No doubt the guy was accelerating up the hill when friction failed to keep the ladder in the back -- who could ever conceive of such a thing happening? (ironic grin)
I've seen a lot of this lately. Various construction and service vehicles with open backs and gear just lying around. One of my favorites was a truck carrying concrete construction forms which had these racks holding these foot-long or so spikes -- looked like multiple rocket launchers on the back. One had a slight angle on it, but one was completely level. How would you like to be behind this guy when he guns it and those spikes slide out of their slots and into your lane? Look, I understand Physics, so I'm not asking that things be hermetically sealed at all times. But Michigan roads are not smooth surfaces, and bouncing can move things. And I don't want to have to dodge your tools and I don't have time to rebuild my vehicles. 'Kay?
Likewise, I don't drive behind trucks holding trash bins or asphalt -- seen too many stones, clumps of stuff and trash fly out behind these trucks.
I tell you, folks, it's a jungle out there. Doesn't anyone ever write tickets?