Sometime in the next few weeks, I will start screaming in my car as I drive to work. This should bring pleasure to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which appears to want to provoke such a reaction with its plans to begin construction this fall on, oh, pretty much every exit I pass on the way downtown.
I'm sure there is some greater good involved in closing many of the I-71 and I-670 downtown exits, but I don't think the greater good will be much of an excuse for being late to work during the two years the construction is supposed to last. The idea of waking up early to sit in my car for more time each day makes me feel as if I've lost a tiny cosmic lottery.
For me, the timing is particularly poor. After a decade of working in Columbus, I recently have become, for the first time, a commuter. There is a certain mindset necessary to survive while battling traffic that reminds me at times of the post-apocalyptic driving scenes in the Mad Max movies. I do not yet have it. I drive angry.
I believe strongly in the wave to acknowledge the driver who lets another car in, and I have no patience for the people who wait until the last second to merge, blowing by those of us who showed forethought and consideration of our fellow drivers. They probably are the same people who cheat on their taxes. If my car can't get them, I hope that karma will.
Traffic is capricious, illogical and unpredictable. I never know what part of my trek from Westerville to the east side of downtown will be backed up, but it's guaranteed that, at some point, several cars will slow to a crawl for no discernible reason and then, without warning or cause, the race will begin again.
Commuting is a badge of honor for some. I tried complaining about my drive to someone the other day, but she instantly scoffed at my 20 minutes and raised me her 45. Her suffering didn't help ease mine, though.
I can only imagine what fresh horror the downtown shutdown will bring as the speed limit in the construction area is lowered to 45 mph. The Dispatch was anticipating the mess last month by soliciting catchy names a la Los Angeles's "Carmageddon."
I humbly submit: Cowtown Clusterf*$@. I will no doubt be reciting part of this name loudly as I drive through it.
I cope with commuting by listening to the radio-NPR in the morning and local sports yahoos in the afternoon. NPR is soothing on the way in, and there is minimal shouting as I struggle to wake up and merge at the same time. Occasionally, I have to switch the channel when I realize the dulcet tones are lulling me back to sleep.
Driving home, I listen to two grown men who have given themselves nicknames that begin with "The" and argue about who hates Terrelle Pryor more. It is entertaining, partly because it doesn't seem as if anyone in a position of authority actually listens to the show. (If they were, I suspect they might have looked up the word "merkin" and told them to stop using it to describe various athletes' bad facial hair.)
I usually spend the first five minutes trying to figure out who's who. One of them is dumber than the other, but I'm never sure of which. I really don't mean that in a bad way. Their buffoon-shtick banter helps pass the time as I'm passed by.
I thought I might have some commuting relief in a few years because the nonprofit where I work is planning to move. The proposed location is a few exits before the current one. But then I checked an ODOT construction fact sheet: The exit is scheduled for permanent closure.
I will leave the windows up to muffle my screams.