Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rush Hour

The past few days have been one big blur of activity. This evening is the first breather I have had since the weekend. I have made two startling but interesting discoveries:

a. I can actually survive almost a whole day without checking mails/blogs.
b. I can listen to more than 8 hours of lectures and actually find them interesting (except just before lunch (too hungry) and just after lunch (too sleepy)).

But this post is not about my brand new discoveries. Remember, sometime back I wrote about how I always choose houses close to my work place just so I don't need to commute long distances to work? Also remember how I gloated about feeling smug and superior whenever I saw the struggling commuters on US-101 freeway? Well, every dog has its day and the smug people of the world will be suitably rewarded for thinking too highly of themselves.

So sometime back, at work, I was asked whether I would like to go for some training. I agreed quite happily. Then I was told that the training was to be held in the city of S, about 26 miles from my house. My heart sank immediately - going to the city of S meant taking the notoriously overcrowded US-101 freeway for commuting. Due to various reasons, carpooling with my other colleague going for the training was not possible and I resigned myself to four days of commuting.

The training started on Tuesday. If there is one thing I hate more than driving in the freeway during the rush-hour, it is driving in the freeway during the rush-hour when it is raining. So of course, on Monday evening, weather.com predicted thunderstorms (not just rain) for both Tuesday and Wednesday. Oh dear!

Tuesday morning I set off a good one hour before the training-class started. Of course, I took the Yahoo maps estimated 32 minutes travel time with a huge sack of salt and gave myself enough buffer time to get to class on time. Thankfully, it wasn't raining when I left home and after getting caught in a few bottlenecks along the way (nothing too terrible though), I managed to reach the training center in S in 35 minutes - hurraaah! And that too with just one U-turn. Pat on the back :-)!

That evening too, it stopped raining just before I set back home. Again there were a few traffic jams sporadically on the freeway but nothing major and I was home in 35 minutes. I was begining to wonder why people made a huge deal about commuting. It was not as bad as everyone made it out to be.

Then this morning I got up to see a cloudy and gloomy sky outside. It was raining as I set off. Ah, I thought, Big deal, like its going to matter too much to the commute time. Smarty-pants thought, right? Right! 20 minutes later, I had just reached the city of M, which is like a measly five miles away from my house. My car was literally crawling along the freeway. I have driven at faster speeds in my apartment parking lot. Have you watched the movie "Office Space"? I felt like I was acting in the open sequence of that movie. Anyways, thankfully the traffic eased a bit after that. It was a bit unnerving to go splashing through all the rain water (it felt a bit like Moses going through the parting of the Red Sea - okay, okay that's an exageration) - but it was COOL to be zooming again. And I reached the training center in 45 minutes. Not too great - but okay.

Then this evening happened. From the time I set off, there were only traffic blocks after traffic blocks. For a brief point in time my speedometer touched 65mph - just when I was congratulating myself, the traffic came to a grinding halt. Yes, GRRIIIIIIINNND and HALT. After that we began to millimeter-forward. It was worse than crawling. I would have been a whole LOT faster if I had just got off and started jogging on the shoulder of the freeway. At no point did I manage to cross even 25 mph. And the thing to be noted here is that the car pool lane was, of course, almost empty and hence vehicles with more than one occupant just zoomed by. I suspect that the car pool drivers put on an extra spurt of speed just so they could make us lesser non-car-pooling mortals feel even more miserable. It was darn annoying see them enter the freeway, squeeze themselves past all the other lanes, hit the car pool lane and then zoooom away. Grr (people, people, please hold the lecture on incentives to save fuel - mez not going to listen now).

Finally I was ready to pull out all my hair out of frustration when I spotted an exit whose name I recognized - I only had a very vague idea of how to get home via a non-freeway route from there. But I was willing to get lost in preference to spending any more time on the terrible freeway. So I took the exit and resumed breathing normally as my speedometer hit 35mph again.

Thankfully, for a change, my direction instincts worked correctly, and I was in the right direction. After I reached the expressway (that's my favorite expressway for the simple reason that it is hardly ever crowded), it was smooth sailing all the way home. When I reached home and checked the clock, it was a whole hour since I had started. Goodness knows how much later I would have reached if I had decided to stick with the freeway.

Now my concern is, if you look at my commute timings, its been increasing with alarming regularity. Me thinks the first day was just a false trailer to lull me into a false sense of security. Now, I am wondering how much worse its going to be tomorrow :-O! The good part is weather.com has not predicted rain for tomorrow. Yaaay.

I am expected to do this for two more days only (as of now anyways) and I am already upto my neck with it. Now I have a new found respect for all the people who drive for more than 30 minutes one-way to work everyday. Wow!

And, that is all I have to say about that. I wanted to crib and people who got till the end of this tirade, thank you and I will listen to your commute cribs whenever you ask me to!

p.s. Sorry, no pics with this post. My net connection is acting up again and preventing me from hunting for pics. Ciao!

17 comments:

Archana Bahuguna said...

Hope ur next two days arent as bad (check ur astro charts):-) But hey, as far as u get to write a blog at the end of the day, the rains on the highway have some value. :-) Happy driving!

spark said...

well, training days used to be fun when i was at work. forget the commute :-p

Saranya Kishore said...

Arch,

If I start to work a min after 7:30, my normal commute time almost doubles, _even_ on the inside city roads, thanks to the bursting city even before it is built completely. :(

I guess the trick is to start earlier and beat the traffic.

Good luck with the next days!
Enjoyed reading your blog. :))

Rahul Obla said...

Well, I'd have thought all the waiting would have been a piece 'o' cake for ya with your new 'Nano' beside you! ;).
Anyways, if it makes you feel better, I once was driving back to Dallas frm Houston. Wanted to make it in 3 hours, got stuck in jam and when I made it out of Houston city three hours had already gone!! :( ..... ;)

T said...

have to agree with SK.
I start at 7 to reach my work at 8:00 about 40 miles away. If I start about 15 mins later, I reach around 8:45-9.
Its good that I love driving, else I would have moved out of this area long time ago.

Floridora said...

Saranya's experience was my experience. If I left the house by a certain time I had smooth sailing into New York. One minute late and the great God of Highways threw a giant switch and traffic came to a sudden slow.

kuttichuvaru said...

well, I drive abt 15 miles one-way to work... its usually not very bad... there is a stretch of abt 4 miles tat is a bit crowded, otherwise its pretty neat!!

but, it happened to me the other day... I started 10 mins earlier to work than my usual!! n guess wat?? I got stuck up in heavy traffic n reached oppice the usual time... at least I wasnt late :-)

Shilpa said...

I hate the traffic too. I hated the 30 mile commute I did last summer during my intern. It always took me more than an hour.

I would either leave much earlier or a little later than the rush-hour time.

Most of the times, I would take some exit and avoid highways. This is slow but not as slow as crawling on the freeways.

And then I hit upon the 3rd trick too, the HOV lane, I convinced a fellow-intern to car-pool :-) and it was time to zoom !!

Anyway, since it is only for 2 days - u can just grin and bear :-P

Thanu said...

Don't even get me started on commuter's rage..
I'm a reformed person and now I live 5 miles frm work..as opposed to the 26 miles/1 hr one way before.

I now brag to ppl that if i start a song on my cd player, it is still playing when I get to work..

Oh the joys of short commute..

uughh what is with all this rain..

Archana said...

Archana, today bordered on average - 35 minutes while going, 45 minutes while coming back :-). Lets see how it goes tomorrow! Yeah, yeah, I finally got my blog topic :-P!

Spark - actually it is fun! What did u do for commuting?

Saranya - oh-oh poor you! My normal commute is intra-city only and what time I leave for work generally has little or no bearing on how fast I reach! But looks like you have quite a few people who agree with you!

Rahul - not yet taking my nano in my car - don't have an adapter for it and isn't it illegal or sth to have both ears covered while driving? 3 hrs within Houston itself? Gaaaah!

T - ah! Normal driving and driving in traffic are two different things! Good for you that you can take the traffic without too much stress :-)!

Archana said...

Floridora, you actually *drove* to New York? Wow! Everytime I have been to NYC, the traffic has left me completely open-mouthed (it brought back fond memories of home though ;-))!

Kuttichuvaru - that is the law of leaving early :-). Especially when you leave early specifically for some purpose, the traffic will be so much more such that you will wind up arriving at your usual time anyways!

Shilpa - I remember your cribs during your intern :-P! Good that u got a companion for carpooling. I guess that is *bliss* during rush hour!

Thanu - 26 miles?? Aaaaargh! And now 5 minutes away? Sweeet :-)! Don't tell me about the rain :-(. It rained today too and its going to rain through the weekend apparently :-O! Sigh, sigh, sigh!

spark said...

hey, i just noticed that you have changed your about me section! i like to comment and that's why i have commented here. is it so simple as this?

Rahul Obla said...

Archana.... if you have a cassette player in your car, you can buy a hardwired tape to play your Ipod in the car speakers. If not, get an Ipod tuner. It will play from your Ipod at a partuclar FM frequency !!.
And btb .... don't try the ear phones while driving!....Not advisable ;).

madsies said...

Bostionians, I guess have no choice but to drive :( U will not believe this but my first job in Boston area was 63 miles one way,vs the previous job in MI that I had to quit was 4 miles:(

Prabhu said...

i loved driving when I learnt driving that i wont get off the wheel, but now I am sick of it and would gladly offer the car to anyone who is willing to drive!

thats why i always prefer the go-late, back early policy! that avoids all the traffic :)

Archana said...

Spark - hmm, that was supposed to be a parody of "I think. Therefore I am" :-)! But come to think of it, I guess those statements about sum up why I basically blog - I thought long and hard but nopes, no profound reasons!

Rahul - ah, a tuner that sounds like a cool idea :-D. Okie, mez will research that soon.

Madsies - 63 miles one way?? OMG - you are kidding me!! And you commuted everyday....aaargh!!

Prabhu - hahaha, I have seen that happen to many people. And late to work, and back early? Where do you work dude? It sounds like a cooool job ;-)!!

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