In The Middle

I’m regularly caught in the middle of things- things like arguments, meals, jobs, and the three inches of space Man-friend and Sophie, The Cat have left for me between them in the bed, but, due to my conveniently located office, I very rarely find myself in the middle of traffic. This pleases me. I laugh at people who tell me their daily traffic horrors because I, being so obviously wise, have chosen a career free of traffic jams. In fact, it was one of the major factors I considered when going into business for myself- to sit in traffic every day or not? Um, not. Also, I am the sort of person who drinks large diet sodas while driving. Traffic jams are not conducive to this sort of lifestyle. That being said, I have never properly learned to prepare for the occasional and inevitable jam. In fact, I have yet to find myself in the middle of a traffic jam that I am ready for. Even if I know I’m venturing out of a busy city at 5:00 pm or have been stuck in this same exact traffic jam sixteen times before, I still find myself surprised, bewildered and annoyed.

Now, I’m a perfectly reasonable human being and can understand that things like roadwork, rush hour, and accidents are all legitimate causes for traffic jams. When there’s a three-car pile up, I understand that life will slow down, if due to nothing more than the innate human need to pause at the site of the accident and gawk at the people being loaded into the ambulance. I also know that there are other traffic jams that appear to be caused by NOTHING. These are the absolute worst kind. If I’m going to be stuck between a tractor-trailer and a minivan moving only two feet in an hour, so help me god, somebody had better be going to the hospital.

This afternoon, I had to travel a significantly longer than normal trip for a photography assignment. Despite my disdain for driving anywhere that takes more than three minutes, the clients were paying me for my time, and that included travel so I couldn’t really complain. Since Mapquest had estimated the trip would take fifty-three minutes, naturally I budgeted only forty-one, taking in to account that Mapquest assumes I follow the posted speed limits. And I don’t.

I’ll admit that I saw the warning signs, “road work ahead”, “delays exit 71-75”, I just figured they were meant as warnings for someone else. Not until all of a sudden the car in front of me abruptly went from 70 mph to a dead stop in half a second and so did the car in front of that, and the car in front of that, and so on for the sixty vehicles in front of that one, did I realize that it was I who the signs were talking to.


And so it started. Twenty-five minutes of the most unsatisfying bumping and grinding I have ever experienced all in the name of progressing 2 miles. I already had to pee. And then the radio stopped working. As it turns out, this particular strip of highway doesn’t tune into any of the six radio stations I have programmed in my car so all I got was static. As I searched vainly through the frequencies, I began to feel sorry for the people who live in this part of the state because, not only do they not have the stations I like, but they apparently DON’T HAVE ANY MUSIC AT ALL.

I slumped down into my seat and braced myself for hell.

Finally, after 24 minutes of holding my breath to protect myself from smog-cancer and trying to hum along to static, I could sense the end nearing. Excited, it was the moment of truth. What had slowed us down so? Was it roadwork like they’d predicted or would I get to see blood and gore and smashed up economy vehicles? I was giddy with anticipation.

But, alas, it was neither potholes nor dead bodies. And then again, it was a bit of both. Because when I reached the magical point in the road where the cars go from no miles per hour to sixty-five in the blink of an eye, the only difference I saw, the only thing that could have caused the delays, were three construction workers sitting on the side of the road eating their lunches. They weren’t fixing anything. They weren’t merging traffic from three lanes to one. They didn’t even have any equipment with them. Not a single jackhammers or dump truck to be seen. In fact, I’m not sure if they were even equipped to do anything other than eat. They were just there, as if from out of the blue, phantom construction workers, with reflective clothing and the power to stop traffic.

As I, like the others before me, drove by slowly, mouth hung open in disbelief at the fact that this was what had caused the delay, it occurred to me that perhaps they don’t have strip clubs in this part of the state either and that this might be the only form of adult entertainment these people can find. A rush of sympathy once again ran over me.

Lesson Of The Day:
If you must drink Diet Coke while driving, wear a skirt and bring an empty cup.