Posts Tagged ‘traffic’

The Stress-O-Meter

March 13, 2013

Sunday March 10th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

   The stress-o-meter has been cranked up extra tightly in the last few days, and none of it has any redeeming value. It’s always a constant struggle to get somewhere, and no matter how hard I try it always seems to come down to the wire and become a car race. I feel like a one man pit crew.

Yesterday it was driving up and back to the U.P. of Michigan – much of it fighting the weather. There was sleet, snow and freezing rain, and that always slows down any trip. Today it was a trip in exactly the opposite direction as I needed to be in Chicago to teach a comedy class at Zanies at 3pm. I didn’t get home this morning until 3am, and I lost another hour to Daylight Savings Time.

It’s always a matter of getting to the next place, and even if I do it well 95% of the time there is still plenty of stressful time wondering if I’ll make it. I’m caught in traffic in a crappy car and it’s absolutely hell on Earth having to wait for lights to change and people to drive with any skill set.

There’s always some pinhead blabbing away on the phone clueless to the fact he or she can be a total pain in the ball joints of every other driver on the road. They miss lights and that backs up the rest of traffic and everyone ends up getting to their destinations late. It drives me up the wall.

I know I should leave earlier, but sometimes that just isn’t an option. I needed to get sleep and a shower in, and I wasn’t able to eat a breakfast or take my exercise walk. There’s just too much going on right now even though I’m enjoying all I’m doing. At some point I have to slow down.

I wasn’t planning on teaching this session of comedy classes at Zanies, but Bill Gorgo has been falling behind in his own work as a high school teacher and needed a session off. Fair enough, as he’s been doing a fantastic job with beginner classes for a while now.  I understand his dilemma.

It was a fun class with a solid group of nice people, so that always makes it worthwhile. Class lasted until 5pm, and then I needed to drive north to Kenosha, WI for a dinner with my co-hosts of ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show on AM 1050 WLIP. Today was our 5th anniversary broadcast, and also my birthday dinner. I didn’t want to miss it, so I left promptly.

It didn’t matter in the least. Instead of rain and sleet, today’s weather condition was severe fog.  It was thick and everywhere and nobody could see more than a couple of car lengths ahead and it backed up the traffic on I-94 to a standstill. I was stuck in it and there was nothing to do but wait.

I watched the clock tick and stewed in my own juices as a fun and relaxing dinner with friends turned into a stress filled two hours of wondering if I’d make it in time for the show at 8pm much less the dinner in my honor. I ended up getting to the restaurant about 7pm, completely frazzled.

I wolfed down my food, and we went over the plans for the evening’s broadcast. We wanted to plan out the path for the coming year, but there was no time for that tonight. We ended up having a fun show as we usually do, but it took a while for me to settle in and relax enough to enjoy it. I couldn’t wait for midnight to roll around so I could get some rest. Stress like this wears me out.

Traffic Karma

February 19, 2013

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.