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I, 95: A Man's Findings On A 300-Mile Commute

Graphic assembled by Kenny Malone (I-95 shield comes from "I, 95" book cover, map from Google Maps)

No bicycles allowed. Turn signals, believe it or not, are required before switching lanes. And if your car breaks down, you are supposed to move it, within six hours to be exact.

Those are some laws on Interstate 95. And then there are the laws of I-95:

FIRST     The less time you have to get to a destination, the more likely you will encounter traffic. SECOND     Important signage will be displayed improminently or out of sight. THIRD     Anything that flashes has to be important. The importance of flashing signage will be directly proportional to the number of lights which are burned out.

Credit A. Bowditch
Arthur Bowditch Fay

Our End of the Road series has focused on the stretch of I-95 running through South Florida. These truths come from 1,000 miles north of Miami -- from Spotsylvania, Va.

About 10 years ago, Arthur Bowditch Fay -- a computer trainer -- got a contract job in Leonia, N.J. For a year and a half he would drive to Leonia on Sunday and head back to his home in Spotsylvania on Friday. Sure, Fay only had to commute for work twice a week. But it was 300 miles each way. Five to six hours almost entirely on I-95.

“One day I arrived in New Jersey having left Spotslyvania five hours earlier, and I could not remember one thing about the ride,” says Fay. “And it kind of scared me. From that point on I vowed to pay attention to everything around me that I could.”

Fay kept track of virtually every observation he made during his 300 mile I-95 commutes. Eventually he pulled his thoughts together into a book: “I, 95.” (He wrote the book under the name A. Bowditch.)

Sort of like Newton’s Law of Motion, he included “Bowditch’s Laws of the I.”

FOUR        The Left Lane is not the fastest. FIVE        The lane you are in at the duty booth is the slowest. SIXTH     Rocks dislodged from trailers carrying earth-moving equipment act in perfect harmony with the chaos theory.

With exception to law five, these laws could have been written about the 87 miles of “The I” running through South Florida.

What’s more, Fay created an entire glossary to describe the experiences he was having. Again, things South Floridians complain about or observe all the time.

“Buzzing,” he writes, “is the act of lane changing on a semi-crowded I (not a Jam, but a traffic condition classified as a Sub-Near Jam) which moves you ahead in a pack.” He adds that “buzzing is a sub-art form.”

A “leffoot,” he explains “is a person who drives with their left foot on the brake pedal, thus keeping the brake light on while doing 70 miles per hour, and confusing the devil out of everyone when they do actually apply the brakes.”

And then there’s “dislexita” -- a word Fay invented to describe the following phenomenon:

Dislexita occurs when a (driver) misses their exit... The logical, sensible, least dangerous thing to do is continue on up the I and turn around at the next exit. This could be frustrating, especially if the next exit is fifteen miles up the I. Some (drivers) simply pull over to a stop, wait for a lull in the traffic, then attempt to back up to a point where they can pull onto the exit ramp... Go to the mall early on a Sunday morning and try backing up in a straight line for about 100 yards. Near impossible. Now imagine performing this act on a highway where the next lane is occupied by vehicles going 65 miles per hour in the opposite direction!

The English language developed over centuries. The interstate system isn’t even a century old. And yet it rules many of our lives. Fay discovered that English hadn’t had time to catch up. We haven’t evolved the words necessary to write about everything that happens on I-95.

“Like ‘pinkage,’ there’s no word in the English language that says how to steer with your pinky finger. That’s a common thing you do in the vehicle,” he says. “Rather than call it something in 20 words, I wanted to help create this language.”

(Driving with you knees, in case you’re wondering: “patellage.”)

The fact that many of Fay’s observations were made between Virginia and New Jersey and so aptly describe the experience between Miami and Jupiter could just indicate there are certain universally awful behaviors on the U.S. Interstate System. Or it could mean there’s something especially awful about “The I.”

“Interstate 95, I think, is unique because it seems to go through more densely populated areas than most of the other interstates I’ve been on,” Fay says.

For a lot of major metropolitan cities along the east coast, I-95 is being used as Main Street, for short trips to the store or work.

Fay thinks that affects the way people think and drive.

“I want to be on I-95 as little as possible so I drive as fast as I can,” he says of the I-95 driver mindset. “I zoom in. I ‘buzz.’ I go around all these cars and then I get off. So most of the cars on the interstate, at least in this area, where it’s densely populated, are on there for only a short period of time.”