Ode to I-85
Every working day, I am forced to face down the beast that IS I-85N. A 30 minute, 28.3 mile drive (by Google Maps calculation) takes me anywhere from 36 minutes on a great day to upwards of an hour and twenty seven on a bad day. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m great at shaving time off the GPS’s predicted ETA, not adding to it. My impatience for all things non-work (Non-Nursey) related cannot handle it; I simply can’t deal! I lived in Greenville, SC and made the commute to Asheville, NC; every day that was a guaranteed hour and a half, no more, and sometimes less. Traffic occasionally would muff up my timing for coffee, or those uber fun break room chats before shift, but I literally have to wake up at the same time now as I did then in order to make it to work on time; how Ludacris is that?!
The drive to Asheville was gorgeous, minus Stone Ave (Greenville side), peaceful, and predictable. The drive to Spartanburg on the other hand is INFURIATING! I can literally be having the best day ever; and all it takes for me to have one of those is a good hair and skin day, and then one idiot cutting me off+ 10 minutes of rubberneck traffic have me in a tizzy until I complete report. Now, I’m not saying that I-26 never had its stupid construction timing, or unfortunate accidents, but I can say that I never sat in traffic in Hendersonville for 20 minutes to find absolutely nothing by the time I came through it. Take the week before last for instance:
I sat in traffic from the moment I entered the highway at approximately 1720 (I left a bit early because I had a hankering for a Chick-Fil-A Salad), I either sat at a standstill in traffic, or crawled between 2mph and 12mph until exit 56. I enter the hwy at 48! Traffic picked up for a bit, traveling at about 45mph until exit 60, where we stopped again; crawling for another six mind numbing exits. The only time I was able to go the speed limit, were the last two miles before exiting to Business 85. I made it to the hospital’s parking garage at ~1835, and clocked in right on time. No Chick-Fil-A for Fee.
So when it takes me over an hour or more to travel 20 miles on a three lane highway, I expect to see something exciting, or gruesomely sad at the precipice. When you live in my head, it looks a little something like this. Giant manhole covers liter the highway for miles. Sparks are still flying when we are finally allowed to pass (despite local fire depts. being on scene); only a sliver of a lane and a shoulder are open for cars to pass, because ‘they’ left that much destruction in their wake. Upended vehicles, and the wind, why is there so much wind? Choppers, there is at least two news helicopters, and one medical helicopter leaving the scene(s). What the hell happened? Was there involvement from both sides of the highway? Because there are some smashed up vehicles over there too; but none of these cars look as if they hit each other. It’s almost like something, some massive thing went on a smashing spree, and then power drove through the middle of the road. But that just doesn’t make any sense. We’re all forced to drive super carefully, and over missed and forgotten debris, and more of these frigging manhole covers; if I didn’t know any better… Nah, that’s too crazy. Wait, wait that’s unmistakable... that is someone dressed in a foot-clan costume fighting someTHING in the woods outside my passenger side window! Several miles ahead traffic seems to clear, and then BAM, another stop in traffic. But this one yields more answers as the police have yet to arrive. We traverse around the stopped object that’s halting out progress; and it is a seriously differently looking vehicle. The truck/van is massive, and somewhat tactical in nature. I would think it was military in nature, but the bright colors, and blaring popular music coming from the machine lead me to think otherwise. Passing it, I notice all kinds of strange equipment hanging from it, large chains, a ramp, spare tires, manhole covers, and a sign that reads T.M.N.T.
Of course, the teenage mutant ninja turtles don’t exist, and they would never engage in a fight with Shredder and the foot clan in the middle of 85, but let me tell ya; I would much rather see that after sitting in traffic for an hour than to come upon Nothing. Like nada, no disabled vehicle, no person pulled over, no new construction, nada. The only thing that occurred on the highway that day, at that time, was an accident on I-85 S, the opposite side and direction, divided by a 4-foot concrete wall! Rubberneck traffic taken up a notch just to piss me off, and ruin my jovial mood. If an accident is bad enough, it’ll be on the news, just slow down a bit, get over, and KEEP IT MOVING; no need to clog up traffic and create another incident because you’re sight-seeing and being nosey. This holiday season especially we all want to make it home to our loved ones safely.
The differences in how people respond to brake lights, accidents, and downed vehicles has always astonished me. For instance, when you’re driving in North Carolina, and someone is pulled over, everyone gets over for safety, and slows down a bit. In Florida, everyone gets over, and continues to fly by, because they are of the same mind that I am (I doubt he can hop back into his car and get me too). In the New England states, it’s like an unwritten rule that everyone drives 10 over the limit, you just do. Everyone here in my home state of South Carolina, likes to panic at the first sign of well, anything, and STOP and stare for a bit. Maybe its because we like gossip and stories?
Everyone always wants to blame the people who drive fast for All the accidents that occur on America’s highways, but it’s been proven that “people who don’t feel comfortable” or those with “highway driving anxiety” are most likely to be involved in a highway accident, (along with those who are driving while distracted). The rest of us are too busy trying to fly past you to get hit ;) (I kid, I kid). If you don’t feel comfortable on the interstate or on highways, there are a few things that you can do to help ease your anxieties, and make your experiences safer for everyone involved. 1. Don’t live in densely populated places where highways are likely to be crowded. 2. Don’t elect to commute. If these things are unavoidable... 3. Try driving during off peak hours. Leave early, or late to avoid the rush. 4. Take along a “cool-headed” driving buddy that can act as navigator on long trips, or whenever convenient. 5. Use a driving app or GPS, and review your route BEFORE setting off, that way you can predict turns, and are not forced to merge and change lanes at the last minute. 6. Stay in the middle lane and drive the posted speed limit. If people want to go around you fine, don’t feel pressured to “move”. Also, avoid riding the right lane if there are three or more lanes (in researching some sources say just the opposite, to stay in the right if you are only going the speed limit, but in my life of long commutes, I 100% disagree). The right lane is the lane where the merging happens, and sometimes it will become an exit only without warning. We don’t need anxious folk screwing up merging and the general flow of traffic (no offense meant). 7. Don’t avoid it, practice makes perfect, and even consider taking a defensive driving course.
I have been traveling I-85 since I was born, literally 30 years. I was just a babe when my parents brought me down to South Carolina for the first time to meet my Grandmother. So, I think it’s safe to say that I have been fascinated with the driving habits of we humans for quite a while. I’m sure both my mom and dad would have some fun and not so fun stories to add to my “Ode to I-85”, because my mother has told me that “They have been working on it since you were born.” So, no kids, if 30 years hasn’t seen it fixed, or at least better materials (state of the art pavement), then I think it will forever be a work in progress. When it is finally perfect we will all be singing "Ode to Joy!"