Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I hope you don't mind if I vent a little bit. I figure if I can't vent on my weird design/music/miscellaneous blog, where can I vent? Quick side note: I spelled miscellaneous right on the first try with no spell check! This is worth noting because spell check is used more frequently that punctuation when writing this blog. I did not spell punctuation correctly.

Back to the venting. I happen to drive a ridiculously long way to get to my job every day and I work very strange hours. Usually, I leave work at 11:30 pm but sometimes, I am there until as late as 1:00 am. One of the few benefits of working this strange schedule is that I miss traffic. Traffic is, without question, the worst part of living in the DC area. A trip that should take fifteen minutes will, more often than not, take forty five minutes. If I worked the same hours that most normal people work, my already long commute, would take twice as long. The ability to zip up and down I-95 without sitting in a mind numbing parking lot is the best thing about my schedule.

I work near Tyson's Corner and there are about 7 different ways that I can get home. The fastest is to take 123 to 495, (The Capital Beltway, or as I like to call it, Satan's Thoroughfare), to I-95 South, to home. This stretch of road has been undergoing some major road work recently and by recently I mean the past 20 years. The current road work is focused on 495 right around Tyson's Corner. To avoid causing major delays and inconveniencing drivers (I need a font just for sarcasm) the road work has been mainly done after midnight. I am well aware of this road work. I have seen the signs and orange cones. The problem wasThe local news channel has warned me that I can expect intermittent closures of 495 after midnight for up to 45 minutes. After midnight is in bold type because it is relevant to this story. On the weeknights when I work past midnight, I simply take another route to avoid the hassle. Usually there is no road work on Friday or Saturday nights so I will take my normal route. Up until about two weeks ago, I've experienced only a few minor hiccups in my normally smooth drive home.

At some point within the past couple of weeks, the people doing the road work, or at least organizing it, have lost their minds. My first indication of this was when I was getting onto 495 from 123. I was on the on ramp when I realized that there was a line of orange traffic cylinders (the big ones that tell me they mean business) stretching horizontally across two lanes of the highway, reducing three lanes to one, just after my on ramp lane ended. This was not a gradual lane closure that gives drivers time to merge into the one open lane. This was a wall. There must have been some warning to drivers already on the highway because they were already in the left lane speeding by at 70 miles an hour. I had about 100 yards to make my way across the two empty lanes and into the 70 mile an hour lane without plowing into the orange cylinder wall or getting creamed by a car in the open lane. I must say it was thrilling, just like a roller coaster, only deadlier.

Then, this past Friday, a night when there should have been no road work, I got onto 495 and instead of a wall of orange cylinders, there was a wall of stopped cars. It was after midnight so this was partially my fault for not checking the traffic before leaving work but I had become accustomed to there being no road work on Friday nights. I spent the next 2 hours inching along a mile stretch of highway, learning all there was to know about my new smart phone. I don't condone using your phone while driving but I am totally ok with it while parked, which I was. I finally got past the road work at about 2:30 in the morning and walked into my door at 3 am. The worst part of this is that if I had taken the road from work that spits me onto 495 just a couple of miles south of my usual route, I would have missed all the traffic.

The following night, I left work at 11:30. Before midnight and there is the promise that road work will occur after midnight. Still, I was careful to check the traffic map before heading down my normal route. Google Maps showed green lines going in every direction. It wasn't until ten minutes to midnight, when I was parked on 495 listening to the heavy bass of the car parked next to me, watching the endless line of break lights flickering in front of me, that Google Maps showed a bright red line indicating heavy traffic and a little blue dot indicating my location on 495. I have been angry with the Virginia Department of Transportation countless times but never with Google Maps. This was a first.

So on Monday night, I took a different route. I entered 495 further past where I normally would and was glad I did because the highway was empty. This means that the road was closed in the same place it had been both Friday and Saturday nights. I breathed a sigh of relief and drove happily south on 495 and then exited to take southbound I-95. I was halfway home when I saw the break lights. Road work, that I was not expecting, was set up and 4 lanes merged into one. It took about 15 minutes to get through and then I was on my way again. I breathed another sigh of relief. Then, about 10 minutes from home, more break lights, more orange cones, more lane closures, more road work. I sat for 45 minutes behind a van built in 1972 with horrible exhaust fumes. I was so close to home. My apartment is very close to the highway. I can sometimes hear the traffic from the highway from my patio. From where I was sitting that night, stuck on the highway, I could the lights from the neighborhood next to mine. I wanted to scream.

I have sat in traffic on many, many occasions but I believe 2am traffic is the worst by far. All I can say is, to the Virginia Department of Transportation, keep up the good work!

1 comment:

  1. You have just beautifully described why I still live in Vernal and why, during the boom I considered moving to Dinosaur. :-)