The Old Man 2

"Follow the trucks. Get over," said the old man. "Get in the truck lane."

I was driving a load of fine paving sand back north on the freeway through Portland. We had hit heavy traffic in the city center.

"Start moving over or they won't let you in," he said. "Nobody wants to be stuck behind a truck. Nobody let's you in unless they think you're going to run them over."

I was in the third lane of the four lane highway. The semis were moving slowly in the second lane. I put on my right blinker and looked in the mirror for an opportunity to get over.

Some guy in a pickup slowed to let me in. He flashed his lights. I started over, giving clearance for the trailing axle.

"Stay in this lane. The lane the trucks are in is always fastest," said the old man, "Always."

A white hatchback with blackened windows and big silver rims merged onto the freeway and then cut in front of me and I slammed on the brakes. Now the guy wanted to get over into the next lane.

"Motherfucker!" yelled the old man. "Where's that banana?"

I slowed to increase my following distance behind the white hatchback.

"Get back on him! Get on his bumper! Where's those banana peels?"

"I ate the banana," I said. I got back on his bumper.

"Whatd'ya do with the banana peels? Where are the banana peels?"

"In the garbage bag on the floor," I said. We had both had bananas for breakfast. The hatchback was trying to get over and nobody was letting him in.

"Look at this motherfucker." The old man had retrieved a banana peel from the garbage bag and rolled down the window.

"Motherfucker!" The old man was furious. The old man got up on the passenger seat and leaned half out the window with the banana peel in his hand. The old man hurled the banana peel at the white hatchback. The banana peel landed on the back bumper and stayed there.

"What the fuck, Ray!"

"Motherfucker!" yelled the old man. "Motherfucker!"

The hatchback swerved in front of a car in the third lane. Then he shot over into the fast lane. I saw him switch back into the third lane. He didn't use his turn signals.

The old man was digging in the garbage. Now he had the other banana peel.

"We're going to see him again. Look at these idiots switching lanes. They think they're getting ahead. Nobody knows the truck lane is fastest."

I didn't see the hatchback now. He had gotten far ahead.

"On Long Island one time I threw a banana peel on this zip's windshield. Zip stops right in the middle of the intersection just staring at me, stopping traffic. So I throw another banana peel on his windshield," the old man laughed. "Goddam zipperhead just stared at me until I yelled at him to get out of the way."

We continued slowly ahead in the lane of trucks. Then I saw the white hatchback in the fast lane. He wasn't moving. None of the cars were. The banana peel was still on his back bumper.

"There he is, that dope. You see, they think the truck lane is slowest but they're wrong."

The old man had the other banana peel in his hand. But it was impossible to throw the banana peel over the hood of the truck and two lanes of traffic. We moved on past.

"One time I was driving a walking floor full of garbage into Jersey and this guy cuts me off on the bridge so I hit him with a banana peel. This guy drives up beside me. I look down and he's got a pistol on the passenger seat, patting it with his hand. This guy follows me all the way to Trenton. I waited half the night at the garbage plant to make sure he wasn't outside. Scared the shit outta me. I was scared to drive home. Looked in my mirror all the way home."

"But banana peels aren't garbage," said the old man. "You got to drive with a banana peel next to you for when you need it."

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