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If You See a Speed Limit Sign Reading 67 MPH, Follow This Rule of the Road

The following contains a transcript from a short radio broadcast that has been picked up by various listeners across the continental United States. Many have been perplexed by its sudden appearance and how it seems to preempt whatever song or radio program they are listening to at the time. It has even been known to appear on streaming programs such as podcasts or Spotify. Listeners have described hearing different episodes and there have been many situations and incidents.
Reuben, an early retiree in his fifties, contacted me by phone with his story. He had actually recorded the broadcast and during our conversation he played it back to me over the phone. It was my first time hearing Buck’s voice since my own encounter with him on the night that everything changed. It was a dizzying and rattling experience to hear him again. It gave me flashbacks and filled me with a paranoia that sent me looking out the windows and in my mirror and the sky above my apartment, a sudden sensation that he could see me as he spoke.
Reuben told me that he would send the file to me when he had a chance. He was on the road and didn’t have any sort of internet coverage, was actually driving as we spoke. I never got the file, but I got his story.
Here it is.
I guess I wasn’t made for companionship. Lord knows I’ve tried. But after three wives and a couple kids that don’t ever even keep in touch, I’m through with finding the crooked lid to this crooked pot. Some cookware’s just beyond pairing, I guess.
I’m not gonna bore you with the details of my failed relationships. Just know that I live alone and I’m a retired insurance salesman whose last wife actually paid me off to make the divorce quick and painless. I’d caught her in bed with one of her co-workers—much younger than me (and her for that matter) —and that was basically the end of my attempts to forge a lifelong connection with any sort of romantic partner.
Even when I caught her cheating, I didn’t feel the rush of jealousy and anger like I should have. I just stood in the bedroom doorway with a kind of blank expression, thinking had I met this guy before? Weren’t we introduced at the company Christmas party, Will or Bill or something? Was he the one who told me about hang gliding and fly fishing and hunting elk? Or was that a different guy? Was this the guy that could get us scuba certified? Why did he look so familiar?
“Look, buddy. I don’t want there to be any trouble on this. She said that you two were going through some rough times,” the guy in bed with my wife had said.
They had remained under the bedspread, my wife not even bothering to cover up her breasts. She didn’t seem guilty or embarrassed at all, more annoyed than anything.
“Well, aren’t you going to say anything? I mean, this is part of the reason that I’m even doing this right now. You couldn’t even muster up any feeling when we were together and you can’t even muster up any feeling when you catch your wife fucking some other guy.”
All of a sudden, it hit me. “Phil! That’s it. We ran into you at the summer concert series down by the river. Lori introduced you to me. You said you had your pilot’s license.”
My third wife shook her head in disbelief.
“Hey man, any time you and Lori wanna go up in the clouds, be my guest,” Phil said.
“Goddamit Reuben,” Lori said.
And “goddamit Reuben” was right. Why keep the charade up any longer? I suppose I entered into these situations—wives and jobs and kids—because I felt like I had to. Standing there with my cheating wife, her more angry than me, and me thinking such mundane thoughts such as: what was that cooking in the crockpot? Are we still going to eat it? Will we be able to wrap this up in time so I don’t miss Game of Thrones tonight? I came to the revelation that she was right and that I was wasting everyone’s time.
Even when I was here by my family’s side, I wasn’t ever really present. I was off somewhere else, daydreaming, never existing in the moment I was actually in, but miles away in my head.
Looking back, my absent mindedness had always been a problem. My careful attention and adoration was present during the early stages of a relationship—the so-called infatuation phase—but a distance within would encroach as the days turned into months and the months into years.
My kids weren’t spared this affliction from me neither and like I said, they seldom call and seldom return my calls.
Sometimes it takes fifty-six years of living to truly know yourself. I know that it did for me. Better late than never, I guess. What I found was that I was better off alone, that solitude was my natural and preferred state of being.
So when Lori divorced me and left a hefty amount of funds in our joint account (she never even bothered or asked about it, that’s how badly she wanted to be done with me), I did a full assessment of my savings. Lori had left me with an even bigger benefit with some investment and stock recommendations early on in the marriage. With everything I had, I could retire early and quite comfortably.
And that’s what I did.
The first order of business was to get a proper rig. I found a panel van Ford with not too many miles on it and bought it, rigged the back up with a little mattress. My goal was to travel the country. I was—and still am—a huge American history buff and I had long daydreamed of the freedom of exploring all the nooks and crannies this great country had to offer. My earlier years of family vacations were spent chasing after Goofy and Mickey or on a beach crowded with sunburnt and bloated tourists. I spent these trips in a sour mood, begging to stop off at a historical site here and there, but the kids’ complaints and my wives’ boredom kept me from enjoying even these slight excursions.
Now, there was nobody that I needed to accommodate on my journey, nobody that I had to talk to and entertain, nobody that would complain about my choice of music on the stereo. It was just me.
It was actually early on during my complete run-through of Route 66, from Chicago to Barstow, when I heard the broadcast. I was just listening to NPR or something when it came on, some sort of talk radio, I can’t really remember. I do know I was in Missouri and that it was late at night and I was trying to make Lebanon at a decent hour.
There was this ticking that interrupted the broadcast. First, it started off quiet and dim, and soon grew incessant and insistent, like someone had thrown a bag of old-school wind-up clocks in my backseat, all ticking at different beats. Then there was a voice.
“Earth to Reuben, Earth to Reuben,” it said and it sounded exactly like my second wife, Pamela.
My first thought was, man this is pretty strange and spooky and my second thought was, I better record this. So I pulled out my phone and hit the record button on my voice recorder. I managed to get the entire monologue recorded. Here, let me play it for you.
Goooood evening my little nighttime travelers, Buck Hensley here with a friendly reminder that the present state is only an illusion and that this episode is already over.
Y’know they say that all we have is now. But even now isn't really now. By the time we perceive now in our big dumb brains, now has already passed into the next instant .The sounds we hear, the light we see, already gone and evaporated into that all encompassing abyss of the past, never to be experienced again until the next cycle.
And boy howdy I am not looking forward to the next cycle. I didn’t much care for this ride the first time. Lucky for me I found an exit ramp, ha!
Anyhow, all of this talk about time has me thinking of tonight’s “Rule of the Road.” Them boys and girls with their white coats and pocket protectors and glasses have determined that speed is equal to the distance traveled divided by—yep, you guessed it!--time. That’s how we get those lovely speed limit signs, miles per hour. Nice and convenient, don’tcha think? Much easier than feet per second or inches per minute. I mean they only have so much space on the sign.
So that’s where tonight’s rule comes in. Turn your volume knobs up, ‘cause you don’t wanna miss this one. If at any point during your journey, you see a speed limit sign with a bizarre value, something that’s outside of your ordinary numerals of five—say for instance a limit reading 67 miles per hour—then you must maintain that rate of speed. Do not go faster. Do not go slower. You must go 67 miles per hour and you must stay at 67 miles per hour until you see another normal sign.
Now I know what you’re gonna say, you’re gonna say “Buck, my foot is chock full of lead. I keep that puppy pedal to the metal all of the time. In fact, my podiatrist recommends it, otherwise I get cramps in my little toesies. I’ve got a need for speed and gasoline in my veins, I can’t putter around at no 67 miles per hour. I’ll go insane!”
Or you might say, “I don’t know Buck. What do I look like, some kind of NASCAR racer? I keep my hands at ten and two and always drive five miles under the speed limit. I make the blue-hairs look like Dale Earnhardt. Why just the other day I was passed by a bumper car.”
And to that I say, “Fair enough.” Do what you must, but if you don’t follow the rule, you may find the consequence most appropriate with your rate of travel.
Welp, that’s all I got for tonight. Stay safe. Stay lively. Stay lonely. I’m Buck Hensley and these are “The Rules of the Road.” I told you the episode was already over.
“Thank God you took the rule seriously. You did the right thing by following the rule. You just have to wait until you see a regular speed limit sign and then you’re off the hook,” I told him.
Is there anything you can offer me? Anything you can do to reassure me?
“I’ve heard of the consequences of people who failed to follow certain rules. I don’t have an inside line to Buck Hensley, if that’s what you’re asking. I can only recommend that you follow the rule. From what I’ve seen, sometimes outside forces affect your ability to follow the rule, but you must do your best to follow it. I mean, what have you got to lose? Just drive 67 miles an hour for a bit.”
I guess, but have you ever been on this road? It’s flat and straight and empty as hell. That speed feels like walking way out here. Can I ask you something and you be straight with me?
Is this legit? Like are you for real? I’m not sure I believe all this stuff. I think I saw the speed limit sign, but what if I just imagined it? What if this is all a—holy shit dude, get off my ass.
I could hear him talking to someone off the call.
It’s nothing there’s just this prick riding my ass. A big ol’ semi. First vehicle I’ve seen in miles. Go around, go around. There’s plenty of room.
A little bit of dread began to simmer in my stomach. “Just maintain your current speed. Don’t let him mess with you.”
Goddammit, he’s getting really close.
“Can you veer onto the shoulder, the other lane? What’s the terrain like?”
Oh just great, there’s a car up ahead, 300 yards or so. I’m going to get sandwiched here if this yahoo keeps this up.
Over the phone I could hear the loud blare and honk of a semi horn followed by Reuben yelling more obscenities. I thought I heard a bang and then Reuben spoke into the phone.
Look, I’ve done what I could. I’m gunning it.
I felt my stomach drop. I was hoping he could finish the rule to completion. He could have been so close. Still the way these things went, it might have been just as well. He may have been driving the correct rate until he ran out of gas and was forced to stop or until there was a sharp curve in the road that forced him to crash.
I could hear the roar of the accelerator over the phone.
Oh God, oh God. Oh shit. Oh shiiiit.
“Reuben? Talk to me buddy. What’s going on?”
I’m pulling over. Slow it down. It’s all moving too fast. Why are you talking like that?
He began to talk slow and slurred, like he was drunk or on opiates.
“What is it? Can you give me an idea of your location? Do you need help?”
Woah dude. I can’t barely catch what you’re saying. It’s like a little sped up chipmunk voice. Can you talk slower?
But he didn’t respond when I asked if he needed help. His voice sounded distant as if he had set the phone down and I could hear him talking to himself, saying, “why’s the sun moving like that?”
I contacted the Nevada Highway Patrol. I told them that I had been talking with a friend on the phone and had concerns that he had been run off the road on US Highway 50 outside of Austin. They told me they would look into it, but they never called me back.
I didn’t hear anything else on Reuben for the next several months. This was how these things usually went. I was low on the list of priorities of people to contact when these tragedies occurred and most of the time it was only dumb luck that I would be contacted it all.
Sometimes if I was vigilant and had been left other points of contact, I could speed the process along. I didn’t even have Reuben’s last name, so there was nowhere for me to track him down.
His daughter finally contacted me. They had found my name and number in some of his personal effects once he was transferred from Reno, NV to a facility in the Pacific Northwest, and she had just found the time to go through it.
“I don’t really have much to say. Dad and I haven’t really been close these past few years and I can’t even remember the last time we spoke. You said that you were a journalist?”
“Sort of. I’ve been talking with people that have encountered a specific radio program, a strange broadcast. Your father told me he had heard it and I was talking with him about it on the phone when...something happened.”
“Hmm. Well don’t know about any sort of broadcast, and as far as what happened, I can send you an article that was written by one of the doctors that treated him. Other than that, I’m washing my hands of the guy. He never was there for me, why should I be there for him?”
A Patient On A Different Clock
Dr. Percy Sutherland
I was called in for the assessment and evaluation of Mr. Reuben, a 56 year-old man, who had been found wandering outside his vehicle on US Highway 50 in a near catatonic state in what was essentially the middle of nowhere. He was conscious and would walk and eat with assistance, but would otherwise remain practically frozen in place. He would not respond to verbal questions and only stare blankly, his eyes moving rapidly back and forth with bouts of severe nystagmus. Occasionally, his lips would tremble in an effort to speak, a guttural groan emanating from within.
An organic cause to Mr. Reuben’s condition was ruled out; all of his lab work and imaging studies were completely normal. He had been on no current medications as best as we could tell and for all intents and purposes it had seemed that he was stricken down by this new affliction while driving, yet there were no signs of significant stroke or hemorrhage or tumor.
I took the time to observe him over the course of several days and made note of a couple of startling patterns. First, if I sat in the corner of the room for hours out a time, he would acknowledge and look towards me (I found out about this quite incidentally as I just happened to be in his room when I got absorbed by the writing of another article on my laptop). I repeated this instance on several occasions and could witness him focusing in on me.
Second, his bedside tray and table that he was fed his meals from had a small notebook on it that I observed him attempting to write in numerous times. He would stare at the page, gripping a pen and making the slightest of marks, moving so slowly that he resembled a statue holding a writing utensil. He would make little headway with his writing, however; he was often interrupted. This was either for meals or physical therapy or group therapy or yard time. He had come to the completion of some letters. I could see the beginning of a sentence: “E-v-e-r….”
I ordered the staff to hold any activities and to always make sure Mr. Reuben had his notebook in pen close at hand. They could take him outside, as long as they did so in a wheelchair with a tray with the notebook. I would see him out there, being pushed around the grounds as he continued to hold the pen and write, slowly but surely.
Finally, he had finished writing his first sentence.
“Everything is happening so quickly—make it STOP!”
I decided on one more experiment to test my hypothesis. I got a dry erase marker board and placed it at the foot of his bed. I wrote my name on the marker board and that I was here to help. I then wrote, “Can you read this? Please respond if you can.” onto the marker board and left it at the foot of his bed for days.
Mr. Reuben tracked onto the markerboard and began to write in the notebook. It took him three days to write out the three letters of his response. “Yes”, he wrote.
The markerboard was a stationary object and I was only noticed by Mr. Reuben after I had sat in the same spot for a while, effectively becoming momentarily stationary and within his view. I came to the startling and disturbing conclusion that Mr. Reuben was experiencing time at a rapidly accelerated pace.
To fully explore the depths of time and the perception of time is beyond the limits of this simple article and quite frankly beyond the limits of my profession. Just know that there is a subjective perception of time and a real time and our perception of time influences how we experience the world. We’ve all heard the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” and we’ve all felt the slow drudgery of boredom and watching the clock before quitting time during a slow work day.
We’ve also seen people report on how the days and years speed up the older we get and we’ve all witnessed how slow the elderly are when they drive and how diminished their reaction time is. It is partially because their perception of time is speeding up, the cars on the highway appear to be moving much faster than they actually are.
Mr. Reuben was experiencing everything much quicker than a typical elderly patient from what I could tell. Much, much quicker. The staff and doctors were no doubt flitting about like hummingbirds in and out of his room, talking at a speed that was imperceptible to him, his only recourse to see something stationary.
I’ve often wondered what it looks like from his perspective. Is he witnessing our world with the fast forward button pressed on the VHS tape, everything sped up? Or is it the more likely scenario of his life being a reel of film with scenes missing from experience and never recorded into memory, a series of jump cuts formed by gaps of amnesia? Either way, his life is going by much faster than the rest of ours in a way that I have yet been able to quantify.
As for Mr. Reuben, he was eventually transferred from my care to a facility in the Pacific Northwest (while one might argue that he would benefit greatly from their euthanasia laws, I don’t think Mr. Reuben will have time to wrestle with this dilemma for long, his life will pass him by before he knows it). I may visit Mr. Reuben someday, years down the road to see how long it’s felt for him. It could be seen as a variation of Einsten’s clocks, one moving at a different pace the further it gets away from the other, the difference only known when they meet up again.
Will years have passed for him in the matter of hours? Weeks in a day? Decades? The possibilities are staggering and haunting if one dwells on them for too long. I am reminded of a quote that came to me from some poem I read a long time ago, or perhaps some dream half remembered: Which as tomorrow seems to you and me, decades will have passed for he.
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