STUCK IN THE MIDDLE LANE (STILL), INTERSTATE 85 SOUTH, ATLANTA, GA – Traffic jams are modern transit’s strokes. At rush hour or any hour in cities like Atlanta or Los Angeles, a plaque of construction crews and fender benders blocks vehicular arteries and poor drivers suffer: chest pain, stress, and road rage in the short term and mental problems in the long term. But now experts believe the wretched evil we call traffic causes syphilis too.
Just this past year alone, there has been an alarming increase in the number of patients across the country diagnosed with syphilis – primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary – despite safe sexual practices and negative human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status. However, what these patients did all have in common was exposure to traffic. Filthy, horrible, soul-crushing traffic.
“I sat on the 405 for nine hours,” said recently diagnosed Los Angeles resident Ryan Gumma, pondering whether a life in traffic is one worth living. “By four in the morning, I had moved one mile. So frustrating. The next thing I know I notice a chancre on my penis and just thought, ‘Not gridlock syphilis again!’ It’s the worst.”
“I flipped off one guy, cut off another, then honked for three hours straight,” admitted Peter Jarisch, a New York resident diagnosed with both a traffic-induced transient ischemic attack (TITIA) and syphilis after a defeating drive home in which construction crews shut down all but one lane in the Tri-State area. “I looked at my hands and noticed these copper, coin-sized lesions. That’s when I knew.”
Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Most commonly, the bacterium is transmitted through unprotected sexual contact through defects in a person’s mucous membranes or skin. Experts at the Department of Transportation (DOT) now believe that the bug can also be transmitted through close contact with other drivers in the molasses-like struggle to commute home through defects in a person’s morale, psyche, and calm, cool exterior.
“The bug knows when you’re in road rage and is apt to attack,” explained Centers of Disease Control & Gridlock (CDC) spokesperson Jane Herxheimer. She is closely monitoring the outbreak, which is traveling no faster than 5 miles per hour (mph). “It’s not just about cars getting rear ended. Syphilis wants your rear end too.”
The most common complaints of traffic syphilis automobilis (TSA), as it is now called, are chancres (painless sores located around the vagina, penis, rectum, or foul mouth) and a diffuse rash (including the palm of the car horn hand and sole of the brake foot).
“The good news is TSA can be treated with penicillin and transportation infrastructure spending,” said Herxheimer. She slams her head against the steering wheel repeatedly as crews clean up overturned tractor-trailers carrying fecal matter and roadkill. “Let’s hope we can focus on primary prevention: preventing traffic in the first place. Right now, it’s only syphilis. Let’s hope down the road we’re not talking road herpes, gridlock gonorrhea, and rubbernecrotizing fasciitis.”
She added later while screaming obscenities to both no one and everyone in particular: “COME ON, YOU IDIOTS!!! MOVE!!!!!!”