I Brake for Rhinoceros
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 8, 2011
Warning: I brake for rhinoceros. That’s what the bumper sticker on the pickup in front of me said. What I found odd was not that this was on I-25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but that I thought rhinoceros should be plural, like rhinoceroses or maybe rhinoceri. I didn’t know that the plural of rhinoceros is rhinoceros, because I was surrounded on all sides by cactus plants known in the aggregate as cacti. So that seemed a good bet. Braking for rhinoceros didn’t seem as odd as the highway signs that say things like Caution: Watch For Water or Gusty Winds May Exist. There is even a large official-looking road sign near my house that says: Lizard Crossing. True enough everywhere around here, but try seeing one on the street ahead of you in the explosively bright afternoon sun with waves of heat shimmering over the road.
The idea that one brakes for rhinoceri tickled me, as tumbleweeds often seemed just as formidable charging across the highway. Some of them grow to enormous size, and, just as often, dozens of them blow by right in front of you. Tumbleweeds may seem innocuous blowing along, but not when you’re traveling between 70 and 80 miles per hour on a highway with traffic flowing anywhere between 60 mph and 110 mph, and several of them appear directly in your path. You can’t swerve into the other lane, because a long line of vehicles are backed up behind the Winnebagos there, and you can’t suddenly brake, because then the idiot behind you, traveling at 110 mph expecting you to get out of their way, will just plow into your ass.
So, sometimes you continue right along, hoping that the tumbleweeds will be knocked up over your hood and into the idiot behind you. For inexplicable reasons, at least part of the tumbleweed will end up under your car, wedged under the muffler or the heat shield. Unfortunately, tumbleweeds, at this stage of their lives, are ridiculously dry, and the underside of your car is pretty damn hot, so it is not unheard of to have one catch fire under there. Tumbleweeds are a good reason to carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. What I really need is a bumper sticker that says: I Brake For Tumbleweeds.