Traffic Adventures & Time Paradoxes

I don't look forward to driving to work in the morning, and often put it off for as long as I can. Thursday morning, however, I got off to an early start, and as the unseasonably warm air greeted me through my open windows, I inhaled deeply and admired the azure skies. I've been taking a scenic route lately, one that's slightly longer but avoids a lot of traffic and traffic lights and, more importantly, takes me along the shore. I couldn't believe how perfect the view was, how crisp the contrast between water and horizon, with the warmer hued leaves complementing the cooler tones behind them. “This is going to be a good day,” I thought, realizing I was in fact saying those words aloud. “It is really too *&#%ing perfect,” I emphasized, like a fool.

I coasted along, two lanes all to myself, and drove through a section with a power plant on either side, with metal, wires, and transformers looming overhead. I've driven by it hundreds of times, but for some reason admired the architecture and the patterns of the intersecting beams that morning. The road curved, taking me past a catering hall with its own lake and complement of swans, and as I turned on to a single lane road, I noticed a car ahead of me slowing down.

At the time, as I found myself in a line of cars, there was no reason to be concerned. I still had plenty of time to get to work, and to pull a u-turn and double back to the main road would take longer. I enjoyed the music on the radio and the fresh air, even as I inched ahead every minute or so. I knew they had been doing some electrical work on that road, and figured with one lane in either direction they had closed one side off. Sooner or later I'd be past the minor obstacle. Turning around could be a mistake. Remaining where I was could be a mistake. As always, I chose the mistake.

Fifteen minutes later, I finally reached a “T” in the road. I could go right, where the single lane of traffic curved around beyond my field of vision, or I could go left, which would take me back to my regular route, which involved doubling back quite a bit. I'd lost enough time though, and would have lost more if I stayed the course any longer. I turned left, having a lane to myself as I passed a literal mile of cars waiting in the other direction. I got out to the main road, at a point that normally takes me ten minutes to reach. By this point I'd been in my car over half an hour, longer than my regular commute.

I was still calm. I learned a long time ago not to get upset in traffic, in situations I have no control over and can't change. Hitting the steering wheel, honking the horn, or swearing would do nothing to improve the situation. As I maintained my composure and began calculating how fast I would have to drive to still get to work on time(-ish), it occurred to me that I wasn't moving. On a two lane major thoroughfare, the cars were moving marginally faster than they had been on the back roads. There are really only two options to escape the isolated community I call home and travel in the direction of work, and a two percent chance that both would be congested on what had been a beautiful morning. Memories of brief perfection kept me from losing my cool, but I was no longer happy.

Eventually, I discovered a car had stalled in the right lane. Once past it, an open road beckoned. All I had to do was drive fast enough to travel back in time, and I wouldn't be (very) late getting to my job. Now that I was past all of it, the radio station I'd switched to when I encountered the first delay finally told me the cause of it: some downed power lines. I chuckled bitterly at the now useless information, and switched back to a music station.

Traffic delays come in many forms, from accidents to fallen trees to cops pulling someone over to the simple and mystifying duo or trio of slow drivers leading an impatient pack. When all was said and done, it took me over an hour to make a fifteen mile journey. When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books, but I was a cautious reader. When I made a decision, I kept a finger on the page I was leaving, in case my choice was a dead end. The books were structured like branches of a tree. Page 4 could lead to pages 8 or 15, and 8 might lead to 4 or 2 other pages while 15 offered 2 or 3 choices as well. Once I ended up with all of my fingers between the pages of a book and nearly resorted to toes like some literate primate. I wonder if my subconscious approaches life like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. “If you stay in traffic and wait it out, turn to page 16. If your turn around and find another route, turn to page 23.” I'm often fine with my decisions at the moment I make them because I think, deep down, I expect I can keep my finger on that “page” and try Plan B when Plan A inevitably fails.

On the latest episode of The Office, Jim sends Dwight faxes on Dwight's stationary, so he thinks he's getting them from a future incarnation of himself. It would be great if future MCF could have gotten me today’s post, yesterday. Maybe there's some special key command, some variant of shift-reloading that will allow me to see future posts. I've been hesitant to upgrade to the new Blogger, but a feature like that would solidly convince me. Of course, if I did read a future account and avoid a mistake, my future self wouldn't have a mistake to write about, and I wouldn't have anything to read to have prevented it, so I'd be stuck in some headache-inducing loop.



Blogger TheWriteJerry said...

By this point I'd been in my car over half an hour, longer than my regular commute.

I'll get on with letting my heart bleed for you after I finish my 90-minutes to 120-minutes each way commute...

11/10/2006 9:51 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

Yes, but it just takes you that long because you're so old. Think how all the people driving behind you must feel. ;)

11/10/2006 10:10 AM  
Blogger Scott Roche said...

This is why I loooove taking the bus. It makes my commute a little longer (30 minutes to drive, 35-40 to bus) but I get to sit back and leave the swering to them.

11/10/2006 10:49 AM  
Blogger Otis said...

It takes me less than 10 minutes to get to work. :P

11/10/2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger Lorna said...

I don't work, and I live downtown, so the commute thing is just a memory, but I have to say that i loved your take on the fax from a future self. It would make a good blog party...

11/11/2006 6:01 AM  
Blogger Rey said...

I will remain quiet about my commute and the paradox of being at home.

11/14/2006 10:38 AM  

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