IDOT And the Screaming Semis From Hell


Out for a Sunday drive on Route 80


I came out of Indiana doing 75 in a driving rain.  It was rush hour when I entered the abyss.

When the old-timers gather to tell their driving stories, as old-timers will, they speak in hushed tones of this section of US Rte 80 from east of Gary, Indiana to west of Chicago, Illinois.  They remember, and shudder at the memories.

Traffic goes from a death-defying 90 MPH to a screaming-brakes, dead stop in a matter of seconds.  There are more semi tractors and trailers per square foot here than anywhere else on earth, I’ll wager.  Is it mere fancy that they appear 10 feet taller than elsewhere? 

Modern science is unable to make asphalt stick in this dead zone, so some part is always under construction.  About mid-March, the truck drivers who scatter blinding sprays of snow-killing salt do a tag-team routine with the construction-cone-droppers.   A slap of hands and the new season is underway.

I could see an electronic message board flashing overhead, just at the state line.  The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has placed these across major highways to convey crucial, time-sensitive information.  Of course, it isn’t a good idea to take one’s eyes off the road, even for a few seconds.  But if there is a major accident up ahead, or a bridge is out, this could save lives.

As I came up to the sign I had semis on both sides and another one riding my tail.  I needed to get over to the right lane quickly so I didn’t miss the cash toll lane.  Illinois has it rigged so you have to ride the toll road for approximately 50 feet to get into the state.  If you don’t pay the 60 cents extortion, they photograph your license plate as you whiz by and mail you a much heftier bill, along with a traffic ticket.

I risked a fraction of a second’s glance at the sign overhead.  “Don’t…” was all I could get.  Don’t what?  Don’t take this road?  Don’t exit ahead?

A blasting windshield defogger and the “whup, whup” of wipers on high did little to improve the steamroom visibility in my car.  Being in a truck canyon added to the gloom. 

Another glance and I got another word;  “Don’t be…”   Don’t be afraid?  Don’t believe everything you read??

What?? What??

For the sweet love of Jesus, what was IDOT trying to tell me???

I risked one last, longer glance at the sign before I was under it, narrowly avoiding the semi bearing down on me.   Navigating into the right lane with a squeal of tires, the message I had risked my life to read burned itself on the back of my retinas:

Don’t Be A Distracted Driver.

About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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21 Responses to IDOT And the Screaming Semis From Hell

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    Yikes, that was harrowing! Nice to know that IDOT (which is awfully close to IDIOT) has such an ironic sense of humor.


  2. Al says:

    Maybe they should change their name to “Ill-annoy DOT.


  3. lexy3587 says:

    I definitely read the title as “Idiot and the screaming semis from Hell”, lol. The signs near me that I like most are the ones right near each other on the collectors and the expressway itself. the one on the expressway says “Express moving well, collectors slow”, and the one on the collectors says “Collectors moving well, express slow”… they’re blatantly trying to make you stay where you are, in hopes of improving the traffic from “All lanes so slow a turtle will get there faster than you”


  4. egills says:

    And people wonder why I don’t drive! Some of the most terrifying life experiences have been on Motorways.


  5. I laughed so hard that when I looked up from my iPad, the moron ahead of me had stopped and I nearly hit him. The light wasn’t really, really red. We both could have gone through no problem. Oh, the light just turned green. I should post this comment now.


  6. Jane says:

    I am well aquainted with that stretch of road. It’s awful and I hate it.


    • pegoleg says:

      Just went through there again, and this time I really did see the whites of a demon-semi’s eyes behind me in the construction zone. Developed an eye tic.


  7. The "rooster" says:

    Jean Shepherd redux?


  8. thegradualday says:

    …geez, thx for providing the distraction, IODT. (I love irony.)


    • pegoleg says:

      Yes, except I don’t think the powers that be at the Illinois Dept of Transportation meant to be funny. What’s that expression about people rising to the level of their own incompetence in jobs?


  9. Oh, to die ironically!


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