Update: So I’ve been away for a while. What did I miss?
Turns out this work thing takes up a lot of time. Add that to the fact I’m old and the free time I do have at home takes the form of impromptu passing out in my chair for about 20 minutes. The length of nap time varies on what wakes me up. It could be anything from my snoring, to a kamikaze fly taking one for the team by diving into my mouth, or my assorted limbs going numb. Either way it’s usually a good signal that it may be time to take the long walk upstairs for bed. Now my real nighttime sleep is broken by one thing, and one thing only: the 4:30 alarm and my drive into purgatory.
Now before anyone gets an idea, I am not saying work is like purgatory. I’m not in any way saying that. No, work is phenomenal. I’m lucky to have such a job. The people are great and I’ve made some fast friends. I work in a modern building with serious comforts. And they pay me real American money, so I got that going for me. It’s the drive for which I lament. The 20 minute sled dog race with some of Knoxville’s finest motor vehicle operators that makes the 4:30am wake up such a joy.
As a christian/semi luke-warm catholic raised in the church and schooled by nuns, I believe in hell. As any bible believing christian should be able to tell you, hell is generally described as total and permanent separation from God. A darkness so consuming your soul cannot comprehend it and therefore suffers for eternity.
For my money that darkness could take many forms. When contemplating such things I always seem to come to the same scenario that depicts what my hell might look like.
Imagine if you will a two lane highway, straight as an arrow, unlimited speed, it’s and never ending. It’s lined by dense forests and sheer face walls of rock. In other words the only possible path of travel is on one of the two lanes. In my lane of course there is an old person, a grandma, frantically searching for the Shoney’s to hit the 4pm early bird dinner buffet before that bastard Fred from the fancy assisted living joint grabs up all the tater tots.
Her only line of sight, the 3 x 2 inch opening in the steering wheel. Her speed, a breakneck 35mph with one foot barely grazing the accelerator and one foot on the break shaking with the frequency uncommon in young healthy people. The effect of which is a perpetual blinking of her tail lights rivaling Chinese water torture and tapping out a Morse Code message over and over: You shall not pass!
If a rabid bear was charging you and your family at this very moment but you only had one bullet, you would have a hard time deciding to close out the bear or shoot her brakes lights out. And I’m stuck behind her.
But it’s a straight road with two lanes. A veritable eternal passing lane. There is no bear. So there is no problem, save one small detail; an equally eternal line of cars traveling in the opposite direction. They are all old people and they are bumper to bumper and oblivious to my plight, made clear to me by each driver thrusting their middle finger at me as they drive by. That ladies and gentlemen is my hell. My eternal separation from God, delivered by the angel of death: The Shoney’s Early Bird.
So with that as some context let me describe my drive to and from work. Of course it’s not nearly as bad as all that. Hence the title Driving in Purgatory. As most know purgatory is not as bad as hell. Just a tiny sample as you await salvation and passage to the sweet paradise. My Shangri La lies 20 minutes from home, the entry to the plant. Between me and thee is the purgatory of drives. At 5am you would think it would be clear sailing, but you, like I, would be wrong. The road is littered with cars at 5am. That fact alone hurts the mind in places to this point undiscovered.
And then more times than not a weary traveler decides the left lane, traditionally and legally known as the passing lane where thou shall not linger, is the very place they will linger. Even as cars going 20mph faster are whipping to the right to pass. Undaunted the left lane transgressor decides slowing down might be safer. Moving to the right lane never comes close to this egregiously bad driver’s frontal lobe. That’s just the drive to work.
Coming home is a new ball of wax. Two on ramps on the right side of the four lane highway causes otherwise rational drivers going the speed limit in the right lane to inexplicably move to the left lane and slow down. AND. SLOW. DOWN. WHY! Why are you slowing down? Why are you moving over? Maintain your speed, stay on the right and the on ramps will have no effect. Moving to the left and SLOWING DOWN only causes a traffic jam that builds and builds and lasts for a millennia.
All that angst you think would be the end of me. But then I remember I get to come home to this:
And it turns out there is heaven on earth.
Very good Fran! Check your bumper for a slow-person magnet 🙂 I did the commute in SoCal for 6 long years…some days it is pure hell as you describe.
I must have one on the bumper cause wow, they’re all over me the second I get on the highway.
Glad to see you back in the blogasphere! Hopefully you get back to a writing routine soon.
Thanks Gary. Don’t know how you guys do it. It’s been a bigger adjustment then when I retired to be a SAHD.
I’m lucky that I have an office job so I can do the “networking” part at my desk. Plus I don’t have my daughter now except for every other weekend so I have time in the evenings unfortunately :(.
Yeah that sucks. I was sorry to read that. I can’t even imagine.
Ok, l know it has been awhile for you and the commute. You can’t take a knife to a gun fight. Go get a full size four wheel drive truck, you know the ones with the tires that hum like a giant swarm of bees. You will rule the road. Either they get out of your way or they get your tire rub on their paint job. Directionals are optional unless you leave it on for 5 miles. Make sure you leave the left turn signal while driving in the left lane. Drive like you own the road. I got all this from my commute from SJ to PHL for the last fifteen years. Good luck and don’t be a stranger.
Tough to get two baby car seats in one of those George.
Great post!!! Commuting is awful. My worst commute was in Houston. Definitely hell. Love the pic of your beautiful family!
The I-40, I-140 cloverleaf is my personal sanity test. I steel myself to make it through there calm and cool every morning. Once I’ve done that, I can take anything. It seems our fellow East TN Commuters think “merge” and “yield” are signs for some kind of French wines. Acceleration ramps? No. Maybe the word acceleration is too difficult, maybe it should say “speed up now.” Of course it doesn’t help that about 6-7,000 people commute to a place that is essentially one-way-in, one-way-out.
I was thinking of you when I wrote this. We could open our own driving school just to teach people how to merge.