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.


Matt said...

I enjoyed a recent report on the news about the growing traffic problem in CHINA.

The reporter interviewed a number of colorful Americans that were NOT impressed with traffic in a developing country with 1.3 billion people.

gagknee said...

i tried to pee in a snapple bottle while driving. it seemed like a good idea at the time.