Breaking News Bar
updated: 7/9/2012 6:35 AM

Driving ode wins poetry prize for Palatine woman

Success - Article sent! close
  • Nancy Smearman won the first In Transit Poetry Slam Contest.

    Nancy Smearman won the first In Transit Poetry Slam Contest.

  • The location of cash buckets at tollway exit ramps makes no sense, reader Mark McBride says.

    The location of cash buckets at tollway exit ramps makes no sense, reader Mark McBride says.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Video: What a plane pull looks like


Poems about multi-tasking on the road and embracing the joys of driving went head-to-head in our first In Transit Poetry Slam contest.

It was a salient reflection on the times and a hotly contested race with 11 poets channeling their inner Shakespeares to win immortality and a free T-shirt. But the readers have spoken, and the laurels go to Palatine's Nancy Smearman.

Her "Watch Out!" poem captured 48 percent of ballots cast and hits on an issue we consider a priority -- distracted driving. She wins a gift certificate to a bookstore and a Daily Herald T-shirt.

Second place falls to Burton Bestler of Wheaton and his "Country Road" charmer, while John Papeck's "Open Road" struck a chord with numerous readers.

Here are the top three once again, and thanks to the eight other poets who graced this column with their words and to all the folks who voted.

"Watch Out!"

"While driving in my minivan just the other day,

I spotted a young girl going on her merry way.

She paused at the stoplight and with a tiny wand,

She touched up her mascara and put her lipstick on.

I questioned at that moment the distractions that we know,

The kids today all texting and talking on the phone.

Now, it's not just makeup or glancing at a map,

Today it seems more dangerous ... is there an 'app' for that?

Well, that girl I saw reached over as if to scratch her leg,

And sat up with her breakfast plate ... a mound of scrambled eggs!

I shook my head in disbelief and then began to pray,

Because my son just turned 16 ...

And he hits the road today!"

-- Nancy Smearman, Palatine

"Country Road"

"I was on my way home ... there was traffic ahead,

I turned right around, and took the long road instead.

It's an old country road, with trees all around,

Old barns and cattle, and even deer to be found.

It's a long way to travel, but surely worth while,

I'll be late getting home ... but I'll arrive with a smile."

-- Burton Bestler, Wheaton

"The Open Road"

"If I can pass this next car, I'll be in front of the line.

If I just make this next light, the open road is mine.

I know I'm making real good time, I've never gone this fast!

I must have knocked two minutes off my travel times of past.

These are the thoughts I used to have as I traveled in my car.

Those precious minutes that I saved, never really got me far.

Sure I was the first one to arrive there with a smile.

But let me tell you what I missed, mile after anxious mile.

I spent a good percentage of my life behind the wheel.

Never knowing what I missed, or how it'd make me feel.

I still get where I'm going, at peace at what I see.

Other times I'm laughing, at how I used to be.

I've slowed it down, I look around, I take my precious time.

I have my patience and my health. The open road is mine."

-- John Papeck

You should know

Faster trains? More trains? Water faucets that work in train bathrooms on the BNSF line? Less bumping and jolting on express trains?

We all have our priorities for better Metra service, and the agency is asking commuters to list them as officials craft a strategic plan.

The plan will "guide the agency for years to come, helping it to prioritize its spending decisions," officials said.

What can you do? Participate in an online survey, available at Or attend one of a series of upcoming open houses. The first suburban session is from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Glen Ellyn's village hall, 535 Duane St.

Gridlock alert

This week, we'll focus on Lake County where Round Lake Beachers should steer clear of the CN railway crossing at Rollins Road (AKA Route A-20) starting next week.

The Canadian National Railroad will be repairing the crossing starting on July 17 through July 24. Detours will be posted.


Ever fancy tugging on a plane? You can indulge that fantasy and raise money for Special Olympics this fall at O'Hare International Airport. The airport hosts the fourth annual Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run Plane Pull for Special Olympics on Sept. 15. Registration just opened for teams of 20 men and women.

There's an open division for the general public and a law-enforcement division. For more info, call Matt Johnson at (800) 394-0562 or go to

Your voice

Springfield resident Mark McBride used to live in Arlington Heights and returns to the suburbs frequently on business. His peeve?

"Who was responsible for setting up the toll plazas on the exit ramps?" McBride said. "There is NO consistency. At some exit ramps, the cash lane is on the left. On some, it's on the right. On some, it's in the center! You never know where you'll need to be.

"While I can use the tollway system's online maps to figure out what my tolls will be at various exit/entry ramps, I can never know ahead of time (except from memory on previous trips) where I'll need to go to pay cash once on the ramp. And on quite a few exit ramps, until you get into the cash lane and get right up to the basket, you don't know how much you'll need to pay.

"My suggestion has always been -- make the cash lane consistent on one side or the other, and perhaps advertise this at the beginning of the ramp. And most importantly, make sure there is a sign well before the cash basket informing drivers what the cash toll is at EVERY exit/entrance ramp."

What's your transportation peeve? Drop me a line at

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.