“Has there been some sort of a population explosion?” I asked Mike, as we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway at 3:00 in the afternoon.The amount of cars on the road was astounding.
“Yeah, it’s called September,” he told me.
“So, is this the new normal?” I asked.
“I’m afraid so. Until next summer.”
And just like that, I could feel my summer zen dissipating as we inched along, fading like the autumn sunlight.
I longed to hold onto that feeling of calm, that appreciation for life, nature, and yes, my husband, that was a constant this summer, but with each passing moment of traffic, a little bit more of that zen was being chipped away. Just a month ago, I was contemplating the ocean. Now I was contemplating a sea of cars and trucks. And my husband’s calm was beginning to irritate me.
Where did all of these people come from? Where did they go for the summer, and why was there so much traffic at 3 in the afternoon? And, why, when I know that my iPhone battery lasts about 12 seconds these days, did I forget my charger? I could feel the sweat pouring from my armpits, my jaw clenching, my nerves firing up. The little battery in the corner of my phone glared a red hot 1%, and then went black.
“You’re in the wrong lane,” I informed Mike, testily. “The right lane is moving better than the left.”
“Would you like to drive?”
“No, but I’d like you to get into the lane that is moving. Unless you like just sitting in the left lane.”
Silence weighed heavy between us as Mike deftly switched lanes to the right. We moved a good twenty seconds, then stopped. The cars in the left lane started to move beside us.
“Are you happy now? If you think you can get there faster, you really should drive.” But I knew Mike’s offer to drive was disingenuous. He would never give up his car to a crazy person.
“My phone is dead. I want you to know I am freaking out.” In case he couldn’t tell.
I squirmed in my seat. My shoulders, my back, even my baby toes ached. Mike did not have the contact information for the friends we were meeting at the launch. We were going to be LATE…we were going to be too late, and there was no way to let them know.
“Why should the left lane, which never has cars entering or exiting, ever be the slowest lane on the highway? It doesn’t make sense, does it?” I asked him. Mike correctly understood the question to be rhetorical.
“There isn’t going to be much sunlight left by the time we get there,” I remind him.
“Are you trying to make me tense?”
Well, perhaps just a little.
I felt the chill in the air, even through closed windows. Or was that the air conditioning, which Mike had set to “Freeze Your Wife’s Ass Off”?
I put on another layer as we crawled down the highway. My lungs felt like they were filling with cotton. Any second, I would have to pee. Or my head would explode. Or I would freeze to death.
“I think your level of tolerance for dealing with traffic is directly proportional to your general level of patience,” Mike offered.
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
“Well, I’m at a zero. I hate f%&king traffic, and I have NO patience today,” I responded. What was happening to me? I know that No One likes traffic. Where was my zen?
I continued, “I have to pee, and I am freezing to death.”
“Do you want to listen to that book tape?” Mike asked, and without waiting for an answer, he turned it on, and tuned me out. But I did not have the level of concentration it takes for a book tape. I was obsessed by the causes of traffic:
Why do construction crews seem to do work at the busiest times of days?
Why do they wait for September to start road construction?
Why does one car pulled to the side of the road seem to slow everything down, when it isn’t even blocking anything?
Why is it that slow guys drive in the left hand lane, and why don’t they pull the hell over when we have made it quite clear that they should by tailgating them?
Why do policemen directing traffic always seem to make the traffic worse?
Why do they allow idiots (everyone but me) on the road?
If we have dual temperature controls, and my control is set to 78 degrees, why would I still be freeeeeeezing?
Finally, we start to move. There was no accident, no apparent reason for the stop and go. There is no logic to traffic.
I start to breathe easier.
“How late are we going to be?” I asked. It seemed as if we were delayed forever.
So this is the new normal, huh? Boy, do I miss summer already.