Sunday, May 8, 2011


Those of us who live in modern times all know the feeling. There we are, moving along nicely on an interstate highway, listening to All Things Considered on NPR and thinking about how much gas we’re burning, when we suddenly see that dreaded brake-light illumination that adorns the horizon like Christmas twinklers in a slasher movie. It’s what’s euphemistically known as traffic congestion. Sometimes, it’s just a police car parked on the side of the road simply to piss people off; sometimes it’s something more serious like a wreck. But more often that not, it’s that worst of worst-case scenarios: the road repaving project. 

The most annoying thing about a road repaving project is that you can’t even spend any of the many hours sitting idly, while your speedometer never rises above zero, feeling sorry for the poor people whose bad luck caused it all.  As my son, Billy says, if he's stuck in traffic for an inordinate amount of time, he'd better at least see a car on fire.

That’s what happened to me the other night. The the stuck in traffic, not the car on fire.

I was driving back to Atlanta after attending my daughter Molly's Master's graduation in Milledgeville, which is about 100 miles away.  From the onset, I need to say that I no longer have any business driving after dark, especially on roads I don't know.  The first part of my journey had been pretty perilous, with me white knuckling an erratic 55 on a two-lane road while everyone else wanted to drive 70, headlights and tail lights blinding my poor old eyes. So, when I finally merged onto I-20, I was relieved.  The lighting was better and there were lanes for everyone to pass me by with fewer histrionics and birds being shot.

Speaking of driving after dark, I very seldom do it as I usually go to bed before the sun goes down, at least in all months other than December, January, and February.  People who know me well know this about me and have learned not to call me after 7:30 pm.  So, there I was that night, not only driving after dark, but also awake after dark.  You know, it's really dark out there after dark.

Back to I-20 West heading into Atlanta.  It was about 10 PM, two hours after my bedtime, but I was tooling along, making good time, listening to a riveting Rodgers and Hammerstein retrospective and lip-synching to Some Enchanted Evening, just twenty miles from home.  That's when I noticed a couple of tail lights, nothing to worry about, probably just a geezer like me driving in the left lane.  In fact, I liked the slowdown so I could smirk in the dark at all of the whippersnappers who had so rudely passed me miles back.

Two hours later, I was no longer smirking and boy did I have to pee. There I was in my little Corolla, inching forward one or two wheel rotations every couple of minutes,  totally surrounded by huge semis, absolutely imprisoned in a jungle of asphalt, fenders, and fumes.

It's interesting that these "traffic congestions" happen all the time these days and the highway hostages pretty much comport themselves with patience and grace, to the point of letting all those fools who think they can get ahead by driving on the shoulder ultimately merge in at that last stupid minute, nobody shooting each other or even honking. It's as if everyone is too miserable to dream up anything dastardly.  

And so, after almost two hours, it was twelve o'clock, a time of dark I haven't seen in years, and we finally arrived at and passed by those midnight warriors, people who work in the midst of the fumes and misery and dirty looks, and no escape themselves, to keep our roads pot-hole free and drivable for everyone, including slow drivers with bad night vision like me.

I finally made it home safe and somewhat sound, thanks to well-paved roads and people who are willing to stay up late and work in the dark.  I guess that's as good a reason for traffic congestion as a car on fire.


Jean said...

Another good one, Marcia. Hope you were wearing your size 8's. I, too, like to go to bed with the chickens. I'm an early riser, full of energy until noon, then if I didn't get it done that day, maybe it'll get done tomorrow.

marciamayo said...

Jean, thank goodness I was wearing my size 8's. It would have been a much sadder story had I not.

Olga said...

First thing to pop into my head, too--"I hope she was wearing her grannie panties."

I suspect it will be a miserable summer for travel in New England because of the road work scheduled.

Celia said...

"Like Christmas twinklers in a slasher movie" is the best description yet of those dreaded red light shows. I love your writing and language. Our county is redoing the only main highway in and out of here this summer. Oh well. Glad you made it home safely! said...

I don't know if you took this photo from your car, but if you did, remember its people like you who tie up traffic. :~))

Friko said...

1) what are granny panties?

2) 55 miles/per hour? On a through route? I hope I'll never get stuck
behind you unless I need you to lead me home.

3) what's a slasher movie?

4) let me have your phone number, please, I'll ring you before I go to
bed at half an hour after midnight.

5) bad night vision? tell me about it. I wet myself if I have to drive after
dark, whatever panties I'm wearing.

Arkansas Patti said...

I was OK with your venture till you said you had to pee. Yikes, that has to be awful. When ever I get into one of those situations, I wonder what people do in that case. Of course I go a step further and think what about diarrhea? Hope I never find out.

Linda Myers said...

Night vision! I refuse to drive at night. My husband says his vision is just fine at night even though he's five years older than me. So he drives after dark, which is even more terrifying than when he drives during the day.

At least you had "Some Enchanted Evening."

Brig said...

Living in the back of beyond has spoiled me for driving. Other than the occasional cow, tractor, irrigator, coyote, it's pretty much a free for all. Hate driving on the freeways, and not as comfortable at night.
Glad your home safe and sound!

oklhdan said...

Hey, I'm impressed that you made the trip. Driving at night is impossible for me and I avoid highways with a passion. Glad you made it home safe and sound.

Meryl Baer said...

I am usually the driver when my girlfriends and I go out at night, but I am sure my time of not seeing at night will come. I do so sympathize with the peeing - the length of time I can drive without stopping decreases as I age. There is an illuminating mathematical formula there somewhere.

Wisewebwoman said...

Two Seasons in Newfoundland: Winter and Roadworks.

The biggest mistake the western world ever made was dispensing with the rail for commercial traffic. Those semis are insane!!

I am still driving at night though with extreme caution and I try and avoid the highways if possible.

Glad you made it and incontinent pads have saved my a** (ha ha, get it?) on long drives and airplane rides.


marciamayo said...

WWW, I hadn't thought about Depends for long distance driving. Then I won't have to worry about Size 8s. Friko, I definitely don't want you behind me when I'm driving at night.

Ganhar Dinheiro said...

Excellent article, I loved the information.

Cile said...

Funny, Marcia! 'Stuck' is really a good title for this piece too! I've gotten caught behind the wheel after dark too and it is just as you say, "...You know, it's really dark out there after dark." You are the mistress of understatement!

MaryB said...

Sorry I'm arriving late. Been stuck in traffic too - of my own making. You know, overplanning so that you are just running. Also Couldn't make comments for several days - Blogger had technical problems. Anyway, a delightful story. I love your descriptions and felt your frustration all the way.

marciamayo said...

Wasn't that blogger mess terrible? I felt so scared and all alone.

Freda said...

Well done for driving that far after dark, and for not panicking when everything came to a halt. Hope you have recovered with no ill-effects.

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