Black Friday. After-Black Friday Saturday. Advent Sunday. Cyber Monday. Something for everyday over the past week that included Thanksgiving Thursday. All that eating and family getting together can be too stressful. It’s a period too when there’s often madness in terms of travel. Too much. Too far. Too many people fighting to get somewhere. When the holiday is over it can be just in time.
Our extended family drove in two cars up to bucolic Cockeysville, MD, yesterday, to have lunch with some friends, with whom we could not spend time on Thanksgiving day. The journey always seems a bit longer each time. I’m always astonished how many vehicles use the Interstate highways. I should have paid attention to the Google Maps route that would have bypassed the Interstate. It is supposed to be quicker. How so? I soon figured that out. Heading up, for 1pm, with the Washington Redskins game kicking off at that time, and with the Baltimore Ravens not due to play until 4pm, we were not snarled up in traffic. We saw a nasty accident on I-95 South as we headed north and felt sorry for those in the long lines of cars stretching back from the scene.
Once we had the lunch, we all took time to chill out. I was concerned about not being out too late, as our visitors needed to be at the airport for around 4.15am, with 6am and 7am flights. We hoped that we would not hit the post-tailgate party Redskins fans and get home in about an hour. Well, blow that for an idea. Just as we arrived near the intersection of I-95 South and I-495 West, my wife called from her car to say that a major traffic jam was ahead. Well, it was a mere mile ahead. That was the end of our nice day out, as we sat in standstill traffic for nearly 90 minutes, while we waited for another accident to be cleared in almost the same spot that we had seen before. We came upon it too late to take a detour, and once we listened to WTOP radio, which indicated that the roads were being cleared, we felt that it would be not too long. Wrong!
Some were not ready to be patient and amazingly decided to turn back up the entrance ramp from Route 212 and reverse up to get back off the highway! I say some, but it was many. What kind of risk does that involve? The sense that the desire to reach a destination trumps common sense is often close. Why else do driver rush into oncoming traffic with barely space to enter when they could wait a little longer and have a clear road? Why else do some drive on the service lane t beat a traffic hold up on the highway? Why else would drivers dart between cars to get an edge on the road? How much sooner can you reach a destination? Do they ever make that judgement?
When you are stuck in traffic, the dynamics of a journey change. You get thirsty. You feel peckish. You need the bathroom. You feel claustrophobic. You feel irritated. You stare at other carloads and wonder why they are on the road, and wish they had not travelled today. You think about those who are in the extending line of traffic, say heading back from New York. I thought about the advice I had given our visitors, coming as they did from The Bahamas: always take good winter coats on a journey at this time of year as you never know when you may need it. I pondered the dropping temperatures, which were near freezing by the time we got back moving. I thought about times when I had been stuck on the road in a snow or ice blizzard. Be thankful for small mercies. We were not in such conditions.
When you are near an accident you also often think about the luck that it takes to reach your destination safely. While we rued being stuck without moving and cursed the fact that we had left later than planned, would we have been in the accident that was causing the delay? Other things could have happened and you can only be wise after the event. Had we taken the other route would we have met other problems? We should give thanks that we were not part of the mangled wrecks.
Our journey, which should have taken about 80 minutes, took 160 minutes. We were much more tired than we expected to be and would be even more tired after a shortened night’s sleep. But, we were safe and home and warm.
Driving in the Washington area may not be typical of other places, but perhaps some of the crazier drivers should start to think about the slim margin that keeps us from horrific incidents on the roads.