Traffic Karma

Friday February 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/Mishawaka, IN

   The next time I move anywhere – and I hope it’s not very soon – I’m going to have to pay a lot more attention to hidden but important details that impact me more than I had imagined. Freeway accessibility is a big one, and I’ve been struggling with that issue the last three places I’ve lived.

No matter which roads I take, there’s just no easy route to get to any freeway from where I live and it’s a huge hassle. I try to plan ahead, but some days I fall behind schedule as everyone does on occasion and it’s game over before it starts. It’s beyond frustrating, but I have to deal with it.

When I lived in Chicago it was maddening. I wasn’t all that physically far from I-94, but when traffic got heavy it didn’t matter. I was going to have to wait like thousands of others, and that’s all there was to it. I could try to plan around rush hours, but it didn’t matter. It was up to destiny.

I’m a big believer in traffic karma. Some days all the lights are green and everything is smooth. Other days I’m stuck behind a big slow city bus or the road crew hauling one of those smoky tar machines that make my life miserable, and no matter what improvised detour or alternate route I happen to try it only gets worse. It’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of traffic day today will be.

Then in Chicago it becomes even more random as to how constipated the freeways themselves might actually be on a given day. All it takes it one wreck or bad weather to cause total gridlock, and that’s a nightmare too. All one can do is hope for the best, but smart money says leave early.

I’m booked in Mishawaka, IN this weekend, which isn’t all that far in actual miles. Mishawaka is a suburb of South Bend, and that’s about 100 miles from downtown Chicago. I’m in Fox Lake, which is about 50 miles from downtown Chicago but at least ten miles from the nearest freeway.

I fell behind schedule today as I tend to do frequently, but I still managed to pack and get going with what I assumed would be plenty of time to make a trip of less than 200 miles – even with all the potential pitfalls that are Chicago traffic. I’ve been doing this for decades, and was prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the clogged traffic toilet that only results when the President is in town. I had no idea until I was in the car, but by then it was too late. I heard it on the radio and laughed out loud when I did because I knew I was screwed and there was no way to stop it now.

What a great Mr. Lucky scenario. I think I’m planning for everything on my trip – except for a minor detail like the President coming to town. That’s a funny scene in a movie, but not funny at all today. Laughter turned into pure stress as I watched the minutes tick away and wasn’t moving an inch. Hello Mr. Gridlock. I knew I was in trouble, but also knew I couldn’t do a thing about it.

It was three hours of fully operational hell before I made it out of Chicago. Lucky for me I was dressed to be able to go on stage immediately – a trick I’ve learned through years of dealing with scenarios exactly like this. Of course I lost an hour to time change too so that cranked the vise of stress that much tighter. I made it with about two minutes to spare, but the audience never knew.

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