Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dealing WIth Traffic

I already realize that those of you who live and work in an urban setting are going to roll your eyes at my complaints in this post -- and I don't blame you -- but the current situation is fairly new to me, and this internet thing gives me an opportunity to vent. Thank God for Albert Gore, Jr. (snort)!

For the last sixteen years I have resided within just a few miles of my job. Really, it was to the point that going to work and putting in four hours, then going back home was no big deal. In light traffic, I could go from driveway to parking lot in ten minutes. In "heavy" traffic, it was a max of fifteen.

Now, however, after four months of unemployment and my acceptance of a temp job just to survive, I find myself driving daily to within a few miles of downtown Knoxville. According to Google Maps, it is 35.3 miles door to door. That translates to about 45 minutes in decent traffic. I have yet to experience an industrial strength tie-up on I-40/75, thank goodness.

But I have also discovered that I have fallen into a strange sort of driving pattern. When I am going to work, I keep my speed -- pretty much -- between 65 and 70 mph, and do little as far as lane-changes go, unless they are absolutely necessary. When I am on my way home, though, I am, apparently, in a God-awful hurry to get out of the Volunteer City.

I normally get on I-40/75 at the Papermill Drive ramp, because it is the closest one to Emerachem. This is one of those frustrating trafficious (I made that up) jigsaw puzzles that comes in two parts, with a cloverleaf involved. The first time one takes it, and one believes one is on the interstate, one discovers quickly that one must then enter traffic twice. For Country Bumpkins like myself, this can be overwhelmingly baffling the first time around, especially when one must deal with tentative drivers who don't have the first clue how to use an entrance ramp.

Please excuse me while I wipe away the sweat generated from simply thinking about the situation. I have driven -- periodically -- in heavy city traffic, in places like St. Louis, Atlanta and Miami. I just don't expect this kind of stupid abeyance close to home.

Anyway, I enter the Indianapolis Speedway at Papermill, and I immediately start moving left as quickly as I can go. This has its ups and downs, as I managed to lose the one side-view mirror that was on my truck years ago whilst driving in some woods. Honestly, there was a small pine sapling growing sideways in front of my truck on the trail. I was easing past it so I wouldn't damage the poor thing, and when it snapped back, my mirror went flying.

So, with a good deal of side-glancing, I move toward the far left lane, weaving as necessary, clutching, shifting, and punching the accelerator with authority. When I hit 70 mph, I ease up a bit and allow those moving faster to go past me as I am able. But I sit between 70 and 75 (barring one of those inexplicable slow-downs, which I have experienced a few times) all the way to the Watt Road exit, after which, having shed the traffic headed toward Nashville, I can relax enough to slow down to the actual speed limit, which is 65 mph.

And there I stay all the way to Philadelphiaburgh, excepting the necessity to stop off for something in Lenoir City or Loudon, which I do as little as possible. It would seem to be a convenience to have all of these opportunities to snag needed items on my way home, but I hate stopping. I really want to get home after a day at work.

Some of the guys at Emerachem talk about going to a place called Ray's, near West Town Mall. While I'm certain this could be fun, I just don't see me going there without benefit of a shower after work, and I'm too lazy and cheap to go home, then turn around and head right back into the fray. Also, I haven't hung out in bars for so long, I wouldn't know what's what.

And, there I'd be, driving home afterward in the same damn traffic I deal with daily. Nah, not for me.

I have counted the exits I pass, and they are a paltry ten in number. Including my entrance and exit, we're talking about a total of a dozen exits between here and there. I feel stupid whining about it, 'cuz at least I have a job for now. Also, too (the Department of Redundancy Department sends greetings), I have the advantage of Papermill Drive being the Knoxville location of McKay Used Books and Cds, which everyone in the family loves. I often stop by after work to hunt my Young Bride's white whale -- "Dodgeball" -- in widescreen on DVD.

I have told her repeatedly that she can get a used copy from Amazon for a few dollars, but it has now become a challenge to find the movie at McKay, and she'll do it or go down on the Pequod, cursing Hollywood and Vince Vaughn. Ahab lives.

So, for now, I'll navigate traffic as I must, and try to see the positives as I am able. It's still better than unemployment, no matter what the traffic is like.

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