AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: Figures DATE: 10/27/2004 10:10:00 AM ----- BODY:
After four years of painfully slow construction, community protests over property easements and sound barriers, and the traffic snarls exacerbated by lane closures and curiosity factors, the new widened Rte 3 was finally, fully opened on Monday, October 25. Three lanes! After enduring months of hour-long traffic jams over about fifteen miles of highway because people needed to slow down to take a good gawk at the backhoe that was in the same place yesterday, doing the same thing--digging dirt--yesterday, and would probably still be there tomorrow, let's say I was looking forward to enjoying the new luxurious accomodations on the old battle-axe of a highway that stands between my home and workplace every day. Monday's commute, for a few blissful minutes anyway, was a beautiful, smooth, newly-paved phenomenon, as I sailed along, passing some cars, letting other cars pass me, for all the world as if I was on a real highway. Then I made a fatal mistake. I thought to myself, Wow. This is great! This jinxing thought triggered an onrushing domino-effect of brake lights in front of me, just as I neared the junction with 128. From then until the 128 junction, it was the usual 5-mph brake-riding experience, while I swore violently and looked around for someone to blame. Just like in the opening to the movie Office Space, I would switch lanes only to see the lane I had just left speed up next to me. I would repeat the process, with the same result. I managed to pick the slower-moving lane every single time, the split second it became slower-moving, in fact. What are the odds? What was the problem? An accident? A breakdown? Dear God in Heaven, no, more construction? Nope. The problem was people, sailing along in beautiful oblivion over the three lanes, suddenly remembering that they needed to merge onto 128 south, and needing to cross all three lanes to get to the exit, which despite the new construction remains in the same precise place on the right-hand side of the roadway. Jesus Christ. Do you people drive around looking at pavement and yelling "What is all this GRAY stuff??!?!?" What is wrong with you. Well, okay. There's bound to be a learning curve with newly configured roadways, even though people have known this was going to happen for six freakin' months...okay. Breathe. Anyway. Yesterday, I figured, people would have their shit together with regard to the merge. Which actually turned out to be correct. Yet I found myself slamming on the brakes again around exit 28 an exit earlier than where I found myself in the jam of Monday, although otherwise identical, same Office Space phenomenon. Maybe an accident, I thought. Maybe just one of those things. No sooner had I articulated an optimistic statement inside my own brain, however, than the Traffic Gods, sensing it, sought to punish me utterly. The traffic simply stopped. Three minutes ticked by. Five. At this point, I could have slammed the car into neutral, gotten out, and pushed the goddamn thing to work just as fast. Anger began to seep like molten metal through my chest. I did something I never do when I first wake up: I lit a cigarette. Seven minutes. Ten. Finally, I came upon the source of all the misery. A man, standing in front of a Subaru Outback, holding an oil dipstick and resembling one as well. What is it about people in this situation that makes them look so hateful? This man looked like a dumb fuck, a useless little guy shrugging to passing cars in front of his Subaru Outback, holding the oil dipstick but not doing anything with it, and in a way that made me murderous, standing there doing a whole lot of nothing about the problem with his mouth hanging open like a complete friggin moron. Okay. Shit happens. Okay. Let's just try not to think about the fact that while the misery started at exit 28, the breakdown was just before exit 26 (the final exit and the junction with 128), thereby maximizing the misery. Let's just try not to imagine a vengeful deity shaking His fist down at Rte 3 in Massachusetts, somehow focusing his nonsensical and almighty rage on hapless motorists finding themselves there. Today, though... Why did I even bother with this? Who knows. But I was convinced that three-lane glory would be mine today. Once again, it was. For two exits. And once again, the brake lights came rolling over the horizon at about exit 27. What now? I wondered, settling back in my seat and sighing. The merge thing again? Some stupid asshole with car trouble in the center lane? Go ahead, hit me with your best shot. Nothing's going to surprise me at this point. Miles and minutes passed, though, without any hint about the cause of today's jam. In a perverse way, figuring out why I'm still stuck in traffic after my tax dollars have financed a wider road has become a fun little game. Merrily, we crept along. We passed the 128 junction, which contained its share of idiocy, but not anything to warrant the kind of-- My jaw dropped. There it was. A little background: at the junction with 128, Route 3 first has a conventional exit ramp onto 128 south, but hooks into a jughandle to merge onto 128 north. In essence, Route 3 eventually becomes 128 north on the North Shore. Well, this morning, at the very inch between Route 3 and 128, I mean the last nanometer before the junction became official, was a highway department tow truck, yellow lights flashing, hoisting another highway department vehicle, a white van, onto its hook in preparation for towing. Once again, a breakdown had not only occurred for the third morning in a row, but had occurred once again at the exact point that would maximize the misery of the traffic behind--blocking things up all the way to exit 27 from the very tail end of the highway. As we neared the scene, the car in front of me, with plenty of space between it and the next car, stomped on the brakes, and I could clearly see the person's infuriating silhouette turning in profile to take a good, long gander at the Towing of the Van. I unleashed my fury via my horn and some shouted comments I won't repeat here. The person, startled, floored the accelerator, then had to slam on the brakes again because in their desperation to get a look at me in their rear-view mirror, they almost rear-ended the car ahead. My Grandpa Tom has a way of expressing his feelings in just such a situation that's the best I've ever heard, and I thought of him this morning when this happens, and the way he'd grumble, quietly, "Figures," just two syllables but full of the resignation and frustration of such a moment in a way few expressions I've ever heard can be. Assfucks, though, seriously. How did these people get licenses? Here's a hint: change lanes before your merge. Check your goddamned oil. Drive smoothly and quickly past a breakdown scene if you are not in any danger yourself. I mean, what the-- Figures.