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Killer commute

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Gone are the days when I used to enjoy driving from Durham to Raleigh. Some folks avoid the Interstate 40 corridor like the plague, but not me--it's really the quickest way to get between those two points of the Triangle (sorry Highway 70 fans). But recently, I've nurtured a growing fear that the state Department of Transportation is trying to kill me.

I figured when they widened the lanes on either side of I-40, they'd clean up the mess from the lanes of yesterday. Nope. The remainders--those reflector-thingys that allow you to see the lane at night and the warning-strip-like striations from the old white lines--now sit exactly where your tires ought to go in the newly created lanes. You may not consider these worth complaining about--or maybe you're just a driving genius who doesn't have a problem straddling the old lanes. But I've got an anxiety disorder that is happy to kick into overdrive and imagine my wheels shredding to bits under the repeated stress of riding on the ghost of I-40 past.

When you maintain your car as poorly as I do, you have good reason to be paranoid. If you're like me, chances are that burning smell is coming from under your hood; that the rattle that overtakes your Honda at 80 mph is there because you did forget to do something like change the oil; and when the wheels shake when you hit the brakes, it's because you are, in fact, in desperate need of new tires.

Still, people keep telling me there's nothing to worry about. Last year on my way to New York City with three friends, I fought off the urge to take my 12-year-old Accord back into the shop when I remembered the eye-rolling, shoulder shrugging reactions my mechanics had to my concerns about my car exploding on the highway or careening off an overpass. Of course, on that trip the tread separated from one of my tires and we went for an "I-can't-believe-my-last-image-of-this-world-will-be-the-grill-of-the-18-wheeler-bearing-down-on-us" spin at 70 mph just outside Butner. A higher power saw fit to guide the Honda to the side of the road, since in my panic I was seemingly doing everything I could to ensure our deaths.

I don't need to relive that. I don't think God loves me enough to be so helpful in the future. So, is anyone going to fix this I-40 problem? Am I the only human being that fears those old stripes will never get cleaned up? That one day her car will be the one causing the rubbernecking at 5:30 p.m.? Who wonders what the hell the DOT crews are doing with their one-million-watt lights late at night if they're not making the roads safe for paranoids like me?

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