Our Ranter-in-Residence is all revved up

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!

Carrier Slocomb

Carrier Slocomb

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?

Carrier-traffic3

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.

Carrier-traffic2

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.

Beltway_gridlock

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.

Carrier-traffic4

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.

Carrier-traffic1

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.

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6 Comments on "Our Ranter-in-Residence is all revved up"

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bobj
Guest

I hate when someone gets into my “forward space”!
My wife and I moved 24 years ago to a intown high-rise. Sure we pay more.. but it was well worth it. And we don’t have to hit the liquor quite as hard. At least you confirmed our decision as the right one. Thanks.

Eric Mondschein
Guest

You have quite succinctly, humorously I might had, reminded me why I am now living in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Thanks for a great piece.

Denver
Guest

And reminded me of why I never went back to the East Coast after landing in Utah. Seriously, in both Seoul and Tokyo, you drove to the outskirts, parked and took the subway. It would get you across town at about 60mph between stations, and the only fender-benders you have to worry about is bumping elbows with your fellow strap-hangers, with a polite “excuse me” or “sorry”, a smile and a nod the only requirement for civility; no road rage there!

William Courter, MD
Guest
As a Southern California resident, born to freeway driving, I can sympathize with your daily predicament. Do you know how I survived the same situation and the same feelings? I turned my car into my class room. With each commute I listened to audio tapes, and then CDs on different educational courses. After a period of time I lost track of the hassle of traffic and focused on my own learning. That single shift in focus, while driving, probably saved my life, as it reduced my stress, improved my health, and lifted my mood. So, if any driver can find… Read more »
David
Guest
Living here in the Washington, D.C., region, we can subscribe to regular traffic updates via text messages. What we have noted is the sharp increase in overturned vehicles. A semi-tractor-trailer truck overturned last weekend on the narrow, two-lane massive bridge across the Chesapeake Bay. I am told there are two primary contributing factors to cause a vehicle to overturn — sudden swerving and excessive speed. Whether on bridges or residential streets or freeways, excessive speed and swerving (of the kind seen in TV commercials to sell many cars) have become commonplace. Hence, vehicles flip on a daily basis. Maybe it’s… Read more »
Carrier Slocomb
Guest

Thank you Bob, Eric, Denver, William, and David… your views, encouragement, and creative suggestions all work to add to that thinning veneer of patience that I have for commuting. If I didn’t like what I do for a living I’d have bailed by now. And that’s got to be what keeps boneheads like me commuting; the fact that we like where we end up, but detest the road that takes us there. Cheers, more rum?

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