Saturday, June 30, 2007

Road Karma

I don't think there is one road out there in the entirety of New England that is NOT under construction right now. Roadwork closes lanes on almost every major highway in the area, sometimes two of three, it can narrow these lanes to barely the width of today's average monster-truck-esque SUV, and it has made the whole city of Providence look like a demilitarized zone. On a recent trip to work, after battling my way up Route 95, I came across a set of familiar fluorescent signs announcing a line painting project ahead. Traffic slowed. We were again reduced to one lane. However, as we approached the merge, it became apparent that the obstruction had nothing to do with line painting. Instead, two lanes had been closed because someone's car, now in a state of wreckage, straddled the other two lanes after what looked like a fairly serious accident (for the car--the company looked like they were all Ok).

What a deja-vu moment.

A few years ago, I was living in downtown Plymouth, and I had to present my landlord with the rent for the upcoming month. My roommate finally bit the bullet and gave me her half, so on my break, which started at about 11:20 in the morning, I drove over to the realty he worked for to drop it off, still dressed in costume. On the way, I noticed a rather larger-than-usual volume of traffic in the downtown area, so instead of make my way back to work on the same road, I continued up the way a bit to catch the highway running south.

At about 11:50, I got on the highway at Exit 9. I quickly passed Exits 8 and 7, but just as I was climbing the hill in between Exits 7 and 6, I ran into a wall of traffic. I chalked up this slow-down to the line painting that similar signs warned was ahead.

12:10: I haven't even gotten over the hill yet, so I can't see what's ahead. Each car is moving up by inches at a time.
12:15: I am obviously going to be late returning to work, so I call my manger. I didn't expect a sympathetic response, and I didn't get one. I mean, how many people have used the "I'm stuck in traffic" excuse to cover up the late rise in the morning or the overindulgent lunch?
12:30: I am finally on the crest of the hill. I can see ahead that ALL three lanes have been closed ahead and a police officer is routing the entire bulk of Route 3 traffic off onto Exit 6, which would put them all through downtown Plymouth.
12:45: The inching process continues. I finish my iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, my only sustenance available.
1:00: A problem arises--the natural result of the ingestion of a caffeine-infused beverage is already starting to lightly pressure my bladder, and I am no where near the exit.
1:30: Although slightly closer, there is still no indication that I will be getting off the highway anytime soon. I call work again to report my progress.
2:00: Ok, desperation calls for new a new strategy. By now, I can start to estimate time. I am probably at least 45 minutes from the exit, and I have no idea how long past that point I will be stuck on the road. I still have my empty coffee cup. My back seat has tinted windows all around, and I am wearing the long skirts that characterize the pilgrim costume. I put the car in park. No wanting to miss any newly available centimeters that will open up between my car and the car ahead of me, I climb quickly into the back of the car.
Ahhhhhh.....sweet relief.
I close the cup, tieing it up in a plastic bag in the back and I return to the drivers' seat. I am fairly certain, given the expressions on the now familiar faces in the cars around me, that although they may not have been able to see anything, they certainly know what was going on in my vehicle.
2:30: Another call to work. I am sure that I am entirely disbelieved, and I suggest that the radio be turned on or the news watched for verification of my story.
3:00: I am finally on the exit ramp. There are more line painting signs ahead on the highway, but there is no indication of whether that, or something else, was the cause of the traffic problems.
3:45: I pull into the parking lot behind my apartment building. Although I am only about 3 miles away from work, I have given up the quest. I tell the people at work not to expect me back. I lie down on the floor of my living room in a moment of necessary recovery.

At 5pm, the news programs started up, so I turned on the TV. Thankfully, there was the story. And line painting was no where involved.

A cement truck driver, casually ignoring the warnings that the left lane was closed ahead, was zipping down the highway, and only at the absolute last minute, thought to change lanes to the right. He was probably thinking that the other vehicles would either naturally get out of his way when he made the quick lane change, as most truck drivers do, but a car riding a little too close on his right--which he apparently "didn't see" (or ignored is more like it)--prevented that course of action, and he flipped the truck between Exits 6 and 5. One of the passengers in the car went to the hospital. This happened at about 10 in the morning, and the bright idea the police came up with was to divert three lanes of highway traffic through one-lane and multiple-stoplighted downtown Plymouth. Apparently, no one was in a rush to remedy this situation because it took until 4:30 for the mess to be cleared--the longest time I have ever heard to accomplish this task.

I am now convinced that somehow "line painting" is an invocation of the existence, or non-existence of road work karma. If your highway has been a good highway, everything will go smoothly, but if your highway has been difficult to drive, backing up traffic, knocking your car's structural integrity with uneven pavement, it's an opportunity to purge it's many sins with one, huge mess of immense proportions. At least it gets to start over afterwards.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hoya for Reunion Weekend

Last weekend, I attended my five year college reunion. I had signed up for it, having misread the website dates--exchanging what was the first weekend of June for that in July. Because I was quickly approaching a deadline at work, I had originally planned to work through the weekend, and at first, I decided against going all together. However, a turn of events and some available free time changed my mind, and although I missed the initial festivities on Friday, I raced up to Worcester to make it for the evening formal events on Saturday night.

Holy Cross is built on one of Worcester's seven hills, which means everything is on an incline. Because of how physically taxing it is to get from the bottom of the hill to the top of it, the student population at Holy Cross can be reliably tapped by the scientific community for proportional evidence of an obesity gene. The sign at the gate instructed new arrivals to drive to the top of the hill to retrieve their registration information, however, when I got there, I discovered that the operation had moved to another building farther down the hill--quite a walk away. I managed to acquire the information I needed, get to a room on campus I had paid a small sum to use, get dressed into something at least somewhat formal, and make my way down to the dining hall for the dinner.

I will now rate the different parts of the experience on a scale from 1 to 10. 10, of course, being way beyond my wildest dreams and 1 indicating an utterly amazing waste of time and resources.

The Campus: 8
It was always a beautifully landscaped place, and it continues to live up to that standard. New buildings have been added, too, and all in keeping with the original architecture of the school. Of course, that doesn't mean that the dorm we were all staying in had in any way been updated or improved on the interior since about 1975.

The People: 9
I got to see pretty much all of my good friends from school with only a few exceptions, and they were as good company as they had always been. I was particularly happy to see my friend, Pat, with whom I haven't spoken much since graduation.

The Dinner: 3
The quality of the meals served on campus were always a subject of criticism when we were living there. We had hoped that since it was a "formal dinner" that some quality would have been infused into the cuisine. Those hopes were vastly misplaced.

The Prayer: 2
Yes, the college is a Jesuit-run school, so at least one of your classmates is bound to have become a priest since graduation, and who better to ask to say the blessing? Unfortunately, his long-sought-after mastery of the Bible and all its contents rather stood in the way of anything that could be described as "meaningful".

Weight Gain: 5
Although I can speak for my own friends in that there was no dramatic body change of any kind (in fact, everyone looked about the same, frankly), some of your more stick-thin types in days of old had packed on about thirty pounds since graduation. Again, it's all about the uphill terrain.

The Music: 5
"Pandemonium", the hired band, was fairly good with a few misses here and there. They lose points, however, for warming up for two hours while we were trying to consume the meal the college served us with their amplifiers up past the 11 mark. Elizabeth, one of my old roommates, commented that perhaps they were trying to play in a really postmodern fashion.

The Energy Level: 7
I am only gathering this on hersay, but from what I did hear, Friday night was the "go all out" time frame. People were up until 5 in the morning playing beer games in the hallways and out in front of the dorms, and then, suddenly the next day, the participants realized that excessive alcohol consumption at 27 years old isn't quite the same experience the next day as it was at 22 years old. As a result, some of the company were a little drained by the time I got there, and I was only sorry to have missed the more exciting evening. However, they managed to pull it together for the second night in the end.

Drunken Brawling: 8
Props here goes to the class of 1987 who I hear ripped it up huge at the end of the band's performance. Nothing like "unfinished business" twenty years on. I also heard a report from my roommate for the night, Elizabeth, that she had woken up to a fight erupting outside of the window in which the main theme was "you slept with my wife" presumably before the said woman was the wife in the first place.

The Cleaning Crew: 10
Now, I can't speak for what I didn't see, which was the clean up in the dorm after the weekend was over, but I can say that after most of the company had retired to bed at about 7 in the morning, a crew came through and neatened up in front of the dorm where there had been at least 800 empty beer cans, corresponding boxes, and even an emptied keg. By the time most people were up and running, there was no evidence of the ale orgy to be found.

Overall, an exceptional experience and quite a throwback in many ways. I don't think I could have taken it all for more than a weekend--it would have got tiring and dull--but it was good to see everyone, and I hope that it won't be another five years before I see some of them again. I drove home through some miserable weather really glad I had come out there.

Next Reunion's topics: Ugliest children, Mismatched couples, FipCup at 32, and Further downward spirals of weight gain.