Friday, September 15, 2006

Traffic "Flow"

Being employed as a contractor compels one to follow the money. In the case of the author, the money trails leads 40 miles from the home field. That translates into an 80 miles round trip in pursuit of gainful employment. This distance is covered on roads neither scenic nor calm but rather on some of the nastiest, most miserable highways on the Eastern Seaboard. The traffic is atrocious, the driving of fellow wayfarers even worse (if there is something worse than "atrocious") and the ability to predict conditions nearly impossible. The Massachusetts State Police call the section of highway that we drive each and every work day "The Banzai Pipeline." Enough said.

The time spent on these highways, often sitting, sometimes hurtling in a mad dash for any sliver of open road, has provided ample opportunity to ponder the phenomenon of traffic. Certain phenomena that amaze, yet never delight, on a daily basis are:

  1. The evolution of the left hand lane as a 45 MPH travel lane.
  2. When approaching major right hand merges/exits with other highways the left hand lane stops dead, yet the lanes between the merge/exit continue to flow unimpeded.
  3. Mere taps of breaks at the head of a line of traffic can cause a multi-mile ripple effect throughout the traffic stream that effectively stops traffic behind the point of the initial slowdown, leaving people behind the offenders stuck in a jam long after the perpetrator is home, enjoying a cocktail. These are the jams that mysteriously disappear at some random point on the road.
  4. People must slow to watch a cop take a speeder's licence and registration, or watch people exchange papers after a fender bender thus causing the aforementioned ripple effect.
  5. There is nothing like the setting sun to surprise people at nearly the same spot, and the same time every day. "I came around the corner and the sun was in my eyes so I jammed on the breaks . . . "
  6. Hitting the breaks to slow down while going up a hill.
  7. This is specific to the Commonwealth of Mass, but, there is nothing like cleaning out storm drains, replacing guard rails and trimming trees along the highway during the morning drive to snarl traffic.
Without a doubt, the commute from the 'burbs to the job, whether in the city or in another 'burb has been the biggest challenge and adjustment over the past two years. Never, would we have thought that we would miss the A-Train out of Brooklyn. All of the quality of life changes that we anticipated by moving out of the city, into the 'burbs have either not materialized, or been mitigated by the commute. It is something that was unexpected, and still being processed, and perhaps the thing that most make us question our move.

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