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Road Sage

Paying homage to the humble windshield Add to ...

You're driving along the highway, welcome sunshine beaming through your windows, the radio playing or, if you have an iPod-friendly vehicle, you're listening to a niche podcast. A truck passes you on the left side. Nothing alarming there. It's a lovely spring day. What could be … THWACK!

The sound of a bullet's ricochet reverberates through your automobile. You nervously scan the horizon looking for a lone gunman. None in sight. Out of the corner of your eye, you see that a star-shaped crack has blossomed on your windshield. You are certain that you have been singled out for personal punishment.

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You weren't. That's just nature's way of saying "You owe me 500 dollars."

Pity the windshield, friends, pity the windshield. April is indeed the cruellest month. It seems like each day I meet another luckless motorist whose windscreen has been hammered by a stray "pebble" the size of a golf ball. Now he's looking at a minimum $250 bill and with his insurance deductible at $500, that money is coming straight out of his pocket.

One fellow suggested that windscreen damage was not an act of nature. He claimed that auto glass repair guys go out at night dressed up as ninjas and scatter gravel everywhere. Would that it were that simple. Then we could hire Chuck Norris to put a stop to the mayhem.

The truth is that it's a conspiracy between nature and mankind. The spring thaw reveals more than just the piles of poop that have been deposited on your front lawn by dogs walked by less than conscientious owners. It rings in "gravel revenge" month because the streets and highways are lined with winter's man-made detritus.

The sand, salt and ice remover have done their work and broken up the pavement in the process. Worse, it seems that more and more often our highways are left untended. It's common to drive by abandoned washing machines, chairs, bicycle wrecks, Liberal Party candidates, all dumped by the side of the road.

These items rust and break apart and their pieces make splendid projectiles. For instance, when a car rips over a three-inch screw, the vehicle's wheel fires the screw backward with lethal force. So, during spring, as much as you'd like to enjoy the warm breeze, keep your windows rolled up. You never know what's going to be flying at you.

The most extreme form of window damage was on display last week courtesy of YouTube and the auto website Jalopnik. A North Carolina woman driving a Kia found herself behind two trucks she thought were blocking traffic and playing "cat and mouse." Hoping to get incriminating evidence she pulled out her iPhone and started filming. Then, one of the trucks rolled over a two-by-four that had been left by the side of the road and, in an instant, it became a potentially deadly projectile. The board blew through the windshield with a force that was truly unnerving. The video has had more than two million views.

I think the lessons here are:

1. When you see two trucks playing "cat and mouse" on a highway don't pull your phone out and play cub reporter.

2. Don't tailgate.

3. Be very, very lucky.

4. In North Carolina, wood is inexpensive and unwanted planks are discarded everywhere.

The more you ponder it, the more it becomes clear that windshields are the automotive equivalent of the secret service. It's their job to be in the way of aggressive ordnance. And what do we do? We look right through them!

Who is there when the chain smoker in the car in front of you throws his still burning butt out the window and it flies back? Your windshield. Who makes sure you receive information about upcoming raves, night club openings, astrology and fortune telling, and no money down mortgages? Your windshield with an assist from the wipers. And as I have mentioned before, whenever a celebrity flips out what's the first thing they do? They take a golf club to a windshield.

So salute the windshield. The Motorist's best friend. We should rename them: "Wind Heroes" or "Glassiators." (Of course, they also hold our parking tickets but that has to be against their will).

It's because of this selfless devotion to protecting us that it's so disheartening to see people driving around with huge cracks running through their windshields. Everywhere you look there are signs promising to repair windshield damage almost instantly without even driving into a repair shop. There has to be one company out there promising to fix windshield cracks with the simple "laying on of hands." So get those cracks fixed. It's the least you can do.

Who has seen the windshield? Neither you nor I. But when a stone cracks trusted glass, It keeps it from your eye.

*****

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

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