If you have ever had a regular commute — and most of us have— you probably put up with it easily enough when you were younger, partly because traffic wasn’t yet so bad, and partly because you were, well, younger. But nowadays, at our age? BoomerCafé’s Ranter-in-Residence, Maryland’s Carrier Slocomb, is one commuter who has had it. He’s all revved up.
Let’s just say I’m fed up commuting Route 495, the Washington Beltway, and if you’re a boomer who still works and commutes a tough road, no matter where it is, you’ll know where I’m going!
Take my keys, take my license, take that last visible speck of resilience I have for metal fatigue and toss them to the wind. For that matter, take my wallet. Who needs a wallet when you don’t carry a license or cash when you’re not commuting and earning an income? I’m saying this to my wife, adding that I don’t care if we live in someone’s garden shed, or a bat-infested cave, I am not (and I’m not yelling, mind you) … driving … this … nightmare … one … second … more! Underscore exclamation point and highlight in yellow.
It’s not even Friday evening, it’s only mid-week, and suddenly I’m doing something extremely uncharacteristic. I’m doing what my dad did at 6:50 even evening when he came home haggard from his commute – I’m targeting the liquor cabinet. I reach for the rum, because for some psychotic reason, rum’s my pacifier of choice. I’m toasted from the commute! Forty-three miles of what comes in total to a fifty-five mile run, trapped twice a day on our nation’s second most hideous traffic mess. Where do I send my resignation?
I ask you, how can it take two-and-a-half hours to travel forty-three miles, and then just twenty minutes to cover the twelve miles that aren’t on the Beltway? By six a.m. and again at three p.m. the DC Beltway resembles four writhing anacondas, inching foot by foot in a great circle. The moment I leave work, I instantly join onto the tail. Juggling both patience and recklessness, I coax my car along until, at last, I reach the exit that leads to home.
And please don’t suggest that I consider mass transit, ride-share, the metro, a bike, or my own legs. No, it’s the Beltway. It’s driving. Oops, sounds like I’m shouting. Sorry, forgive my tone.
Here’s something you might consider: “More than 760,400 cars per day” travel through the bottleneck that I drive twice daily. And crashes annually average 44 cars per mile on my route. So what is this, 1942, and we’re sending B-17 bombers without any fighter cover to bomb Nazi Germany? Sorry, but I digress.
There are three more choke points on my trip northwest. One chilling choke occurs whenever a car rear-ends another. Though signs advise fender-benders to head to the shoulder of the road, these boneheads will stop in-lane and come out screaming. Idiocy ensues. Seriously, are a dent or cracked tail-light worth getting run over for? Remember, everyone suddenly inconvenienced by boneheads is a trained and willing killer.
[Read Carrier’s latest book – The Great Great Blue – available here at Amazon.com.]
Then there’s that one psycho who drives a compact. He’s the darter fish, zooming in and out of the shark’s mouth. What’s he doing? Why he’s shaving seconds off his commute by stealing your forward space. One wonders if he’d drive through a kid’s birthday party just to gain a few extra feet. Road rage? Maybe, but he’ll be home long before the rest of us squeeze through the last bottleneck. I’m embarrassed to say this, but it’s hard not to envy his skill.
Each of us has it in us to become compact-guy. Human patience has its limits, so we each succumb to reckless rage from time to time. Let’s be honest, anyone living in congested urban areas is a Type A’s to begin with. We’re competitors at the genetic level; we hate to lose, and commuting is losing.
Yet we willingly throw ourselves in gross metal combat twice daily when we commute.
But, as annoying as congestion is, you occasionally see courtesy among drivers. In the midst of severe congestion, a truck is allowed to cross four lanes so he can make an exit. Still, there’s always an accident ahead, and it’s 110-degrees at mirror level. There should be screaming, horns blasting, filthy curses rising from this mess, but there’s nothing …
How so? Well, we’re all on our devices, aren’t we? Remember, most of us never really leave work. Also, our loved ones are reachable, and there are books to listen to. Most drivers are pretty much resigned to congestion. That is, those of us not heading home to check out bat-infested caves in the Classified Ads.