Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Can't Drive 55

I need to rant. I admit this won't SEEM like it has much to do with parenting but IT DOES. Traffic in this town has gotten so bad it's disgusting. Every minute that I waste sitting in my car, trying to get home, is another minute I'm not spending with my family...

Now let me be fair. I usually work a good 30 minutes from home and, since I refuse to touch the beltway, I end up on I-95. At the end of the day I'm usually trying to decide which tunnel WON'T have an accident in it that night.

Sure, I make use of all the current technology. I listen to the radio for their oh-so-vague traffic reports every 10 minutes. "I-95 is heavy between Pennsylvania and Virginia, Dave, try rowing across the bay as an alternate."

I have also subscribed to so I can map out all of my possible routes home and figure out which one is least congested before I leave. I can even call them toll-free from the car for a "real-time" update from their server, which must be in Alaska since somehow they are always about 15-minutes "after the fact". In fact, I should call THEM from my car as soon as I hit a back-up so they can update their system MORE quickly.

Over the last two weeks, my luck has been such that, whatever highway I get myself onto, shuts down about 10 minutes later. I even tried leaving at lunchtime on a Friday, since getting home at the end of the week is like that scene in "Office Space" where the guy in the car sees the old guy using a walker pass him on the sidewalk. Even THEN, at lunchtime, there was an accident as soon as I got on 95 that shut it down....right after my update said my "Jam Factor" was ZERO.

Monday night, on my way home, a SERIES of accidents (yes, a SERIES of accidents) shut down I-95 on my way home. I sat still on the highway for over an hour. We all had our cars turned off and it was dark so it sort of looked like "The Day the Earth Stood Still". I ended up missing my daughter's basketball game. She scored two of her team's three baskets. Sure, it was a lot worse for the people that were actually IN the accident...but still.

So, here are a few rules that maybe we can all remember to help us get through life a little more quickly:

SuperDad's 10 Commandments of Driving

1) When a sign says "Speed Limit - 40", they really mean it. It's not a trick. You don't have to go 35 or even 30, just to be safe. You actually have the freedom to go all the way up to 40mph. In fact, some of our finest that I've talked to say that they wouldn't even pull someone over unless they were going over 45mph...but I digress.

2) When it rains, you don't automatically need to go 10mph below the speed limit. In fact, this is MORE dangerous than going too fast. You could get rear-ended by someone who doesn't expect you to actually be going MORE slowly than the posted speed. It's just water. You bathe in it, you drink it. If you use those new-fangled "windshield wipers", you can even see well enough to still be able to drive in it. (By the way, if it WAS just pouring and now it has slowed to a drizzle, you don't need to leave your wipers on "High" for an extra 30 minutes. A quick switch to "intermittent" will preserve your blades' longevity.)

3) If a police car already HAS someone pulled over, with its lights flashing, you don't need to slam on your brakes before passing it. Not only does this look more suspicious than speeding, but he's obviously ALREADY busy. He's not going to say, "Sir, you're off the hook because this other guy just blew by me at 68mph!"

4) If there is an accident, it's safe to assume that there will ALWAYS be at least one police car, fire truck, and an ambulance on the scene. There might also be a few crunched up vehicles and some people rubbing their necks, talking on their cell phones, and walking around. We don't need to slow down to get a better look.

5) Which brings me to those flashing highway signs. These things contain MAYBE one sentence. "ACCIDENT AHEAD - DELAYS POSSIBLE". How long did it take you to read that just now? I bet if you were driving along, you certainly wouldn't need to jam on the brakes so that you had more time to read the sign. Soon they will have to add more signs, "TRAFFIC SIGN AHEAD - DELAYS POSSIBLE".

6) Let's talk about the FAST lane. You know which one this is, right? The one on the left? The PASSING lane? It used to be that if you were cruising in this lane without actually "passing" anyone, you could get pulled over. What happened to those days? If you're not passing someone, get out of the left lane. If you cut into this lane to pass someone, pass them and get back out of it. I love the guys who zip onto the highway and cut across all three lanes just to get to the left lane and do 50mph. Sometimes, I wish I had a grille missile.

7) Note to the highway authority: If there is an accident or construction in ONE tunnel, it is NOT OK to shut down lanes in the OTHER tunnel for construction at the same time. The only goal that this behavior could possibly have is to see if they make it onto the traffic report. "Well, Dave, in the Fort MacHenry Tunnel, you're pretty much screwed and in the Harbor Tunnel, you're S.O.L. there too. Try riding a camel home tonight, everyone."

8) Another note: If I'm paying for an E-Z Pass, it is NEVER okay to NOT have any E-Z pass lanes open. If I want to sit in line, I'll get out two dollars and tell you.

9) A note on traffic lights. If you are first in line at a red light, you can probably see when the light is about to turn. Even if you can't, you can always be prepared to GO when the light changes. "The light's green now. Let's see, I need to put down the pack of gum, get off the phone, close the map, get my foot onto the accelerator, and hit the gas. Oh, it's red again. Oh well, darn." NOTE: If you're waiting to make a left and the light turns yellow, that's when you GO. It is not adviseable to wait for it to turn green again and start all over.

10) Lastly, and this is a little ambitious but we have too many people in this town already, if you do NOT have to be at work or take the kids to school, stay off the roads from 7:30am - 9:30am and from 5pm - 7pm. I love being late for an appointment and being behind Elmer who is pointing out to his wife, Ethel, what a lovely job they did painting these new white lines on the road.

These things will probably never happen but, hey, at least I feel better. When all else fails, my motto is: "Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way." Or, in the immortal words of Dudley Moore, in the movie "Crazy People",

"If you would all just GO, there wouldn't be any traffic!"

See you in my rear-view mirror.