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Highway High Jinks Run the Gamut

September 08, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

Want to start an instant game of "Can You Top This?" Just ask drivers to tell you about the weirdest things they have ever seen--or done--on the road.

That is what we did, and the responses so far have ranged from amusing to astounding to downright pornographic.

Even I was surprised, and I have seen and experienced some pretty odd occurrences on the road. Deep in the files of some insurance company somewhere is a claim form on which I wrote--truthfully--"car struck by flying refrigerator on Santa Ana Freeway, no license number, didn't get make and model." Or the cubic-foot capacity, for that matter.

For this week at least, we can have no patience with drivers complaining how bored they get. Just take a look around next time you're stuck in traffic. You never know what you might see.

"Don't people realize that cars have windows?" asks Alan Guzik of Costa Mesa. "The things they wouldn't do in a normal public setting are OK in the car! Fondling, groping, putting on makeup!

"There are no statistics, but I bet more people pick their noses while driving than any other place. Kleenex has definitely missed the market. The freeway is a giant bathroom for many."

A friend of mine has what may be the ultimate behind-the-wheel personal grooming story. "I saw a woman coloring her hair on the Garden Grove Freeway one time," he says. "She had this giant Q-Tip, and she was dipping it in something and smearing it on her hair, going along at 55 m.p.h., watching herself in the rear-view mirror."

Well, at least she wasn't speeding.

B.J. Libby of San Juan Capistrano says she feels "as if I missed part of my life by commuting to San Diego from Orange County for 4 1/2 years." But at 600 miles a week, she saw--and did--some unusual things.

"I tried practicing the harmonica but couldn't stand my own music," she says. "When I was especially spacey I compiled lists of things like the names of all the different brands of trucks and trailers, catchy license plate sayings and off-beat poetry of my own, which I jotted down on scratch paper balanced on the center of the steering wheel. I couldn't always read what I wrote later on."

She decided to diversify, making sketches of passing trucks that she later combined to make a poster.

"The most memorable of things on the road was what was reported to be a load of hand grenades," she says.

Then there was the station wagon with "two nude mannequins in the back positioned in the 'love connection.' "

She also says she saw what looked like a bagged corpse, complete with toe tag, hanging out the back of a truck.

But the incident that took her breath away, she says, "was looking up to see a small jet plane whipping along not far over the ground parallel with the southbound freeway, and I could see the pilot. I just about lost my composure on that one. He flew a short distance and disappeared over the ocean. The ultimate in hot-dogging, I would say."

Julie, who lives in Mission Viejo, reports these sights: "Saw a driver working on a crossword puzzle on the 405 south, 5 p.m., rush hour. Saw a driver driving in reverse in the right-hand lane traveling 500 feet to get to the correct off-ramp he missed while traveling north on the 5 through San Clemente around 9 p.m. Most bizarre to see back-up lights heading straight for you!

"And last but not least, the oddest thing I've ever done is rather obscene, I'm afraid. (Sorry.)"

Darn! But thanks to Charles, a La Habra man who was willing to go into more graphic detail, we couldn't be too disappointed by Julie's discretion. "This may belong in Penthouse, but I will relate the story anyway," he teases.

Charles and his former wife often engaged in activities once deemed illegal in many states, in and out of the car. They especially enjoyed it when passing truck drivers noticed what was going on and blew their horns in appreciation.

"I never had the good fortune to be in gridlock with my wife, but if you haven't tried freeway sex, I highly recommend it," Charles says. "Think of it as a reason to car-pool. . . . Just don't forget to buckle up and keep your eyes on the road."

This seems like as good a time as any to remind everyone that Life on Wheels relates the opinions of its readers but does not necessarily endorse them.

And don't feel left out if you didn't get a chance to participate in the first round. Something tells me we will be dealing with this topic again soon, so you can still share your own strange-but-true highway tale.

Attention, Non-Drivers!

Is it possible to live without a car here? If you're totally or mostly dependent on alternate means of transportation, such as bicycles or buses, tell us how you get along, and around, without a car.

Looking for Mr. Goodwrench

A good auto mechanic can be nearly as important to Southern California drivers as a family doctor. A bad one can leave you veritably crippled. If you have a favorite auto mechanic, tell us. If all you have are horror stories, we'd like to hear those too.

Inventory Time

Get a pencil and pad and go to your car. Make a list of everything that's in it, from your proof of insurance card to your jack to that bag of petrified French fries, and send it to us (the list, not the items).

Send your comments to Life on Wheels, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa 92626. Please include your phone number so a reporter may contact you. To protect your privacy, Life on Wheels does not publish correspondents' last names when the subject is sensitive.

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