OMW’s I-95 (Abbreviated) Adventures, Vol. LXXVI
I’m going to try and make this less of a complaining session and more of an overall storytelling deal. Besides, despite the entire population of Virginia being on I-95 on Friday between graduations, the fact it was a Friday and heading into a holiday weekend, the rain and just Virginia drivers (who instinctively resort to driving 15 miles below the speed limit in the left lane on the highway at the mere hint of drizzle from the skies), I was able to make a 700-mile round-trip day trip without incident.
Not that there were no close calls, though.
I had a couple of things lined up to handle in both Virginia and North Carolina, and also in recoup mode, as I have a few people who owe me money and are yet running away like the kid who owed Calogeno money on “A Bronx Tale.” It is what it is. Sometimes you just have to write off people as lousy degenerates, charge the loss to the game, not risk your future or your freedom and ensure that you have paperwork on everyone. Including relatives. It is a sad deal, but that’s where we are in 2017, where people brush off commitments, breach contracts, and will make up any lie imaginable to avoid responsibility and accountability from others.
Despite my best laid plans and air-tight planning schedule, there are things you cannot prepare for or control. Traffic being one of them. Particularly traffic in the rain. But before I even got to that point, the day started off in trash fashion almost from the get-go. I had not slept much all week since the previous weekend, because I had two major final presentations to handle, and had been doing some writing submissions to a couple of outlets; in addition to an ongoing search for a full-time gig. Time consuming on every end, and stressful. This led to one day of not sleeping at all for 48 hours despite being dead tired. That’s how much my mind was running since the month of May began.
Fast forward to Thursday, I am at the finish line with my very last class and very last assignment. I had a bad feeling something was going to happen, because nothing ever goes fully as planned (with logic, reason and mitigating factors all considered in the planning process). Sure enough, a mere 5 minutes away from Georgetown to deliver my final group project, I am riding with one of my friends into Washington and get sideswiped by Batman (or should I say Catwoman, since it was Black woman?) and nearly knocked into traffic coming into Washington from Route 50 West. As it were, my man’s door got smashed in, and the bumper knocked completely off his car. No physical harm done, although we were both only mere feet from being on the local news with people calling around ensuring that we were both dead so that they could rejoice, I’m sure.
Nevertheless, I was a half hour late to class. Thankfully, my professors did not hold it against me, because my work has been strong all semester (biggest yawn ever, right?) We got an A on the project. Got the grades on Friday. I’ am done. Time to unwind, celebrate, spend time with people who accused you of being antisocial all semester and experience some new things during what should be a great summer.
It has not begun in prime fashion.
I have a lot of free time on my hands for the next three weeks. I relish this. It is needed. I have not had any break of more than four days from business/work and school since the day I walked off the stage with my second Masters (and immediately left White Plains to head back to Jersey, because we had Game 7 Rangers Playoff Hockey that night). I am mentally shot. I am incorrigible. I am insufferable to be around (excluding a couple of people whose presence delights me). I need a break.
This trip did nothing to assuage those matters. In fact, it exacerbated things further. But again, I am back home, whole, healthy, alive and intact, so I shan’t complain.
I get a call from the local edition that I always use down at the National Harbor. They are good to me. They let me hand-pick my cars every time. They know I love a car with an elite sound system (as factories go). They send for cars at other locations so that I can have whatever I want. I’ve rented some damn good cars since I moved here. Those guys at the Hertz at the Waterfront National Harbor are top notch. I always leave them great reviews, and even after this debacle, I still will.
They sent me on a wild goose hunt that left me holding the proverbial bag, looking like a fool, and starting out two hours behind my prescribed schedule right off the bat. I had reserved a car last Sunday, five full days in advance of the rental. I knew that with a holiday approaching and it being a weekend, it was best to get into the rental pipeline sooner rather than risk not having any available options later in the week. Usually, what this does is ensure that you will at least have a car within the class that you have chosen. Never has it been an issue.
Until this trip.
I normally rent Full-Size and SUVs. They had nothing but compact cars when I was set to arrive. How could this be, you said? One manager says that the inventory does not reflect what the computers say. Another manager acts as if he is a Russian dictator attempting to talk to Donald Trump without a translator. Another looks at me as if I have five heads. I was told by my guys that I could just go to another location and check to see if they had a full-size. Logically, despite a holiday, I figured Reagan Airport would be good for this. They actually did, but the counter lady was intent on trying to make an example out of me in order to get back at my local guys because “they’re not supposed to be sending customers from there to the airport, we operate under different rules”, a-ged Betty Rubble (yes, she looked like Betty Rubble would in the year 2017, sassy, jet Black hair and all) says. More on her later.
More to the point, I was just doing what I was told. In retrospect, I could have gone where I eventually ended up (in Alexandria, down off Van Dorn) and saved myself a ton of aggravation.
It takes about 30 minutes to get from the Harbor to Reagan. Traffic wasn’t bad. I get there, swap out of the car and head inside. I got attitude from the Hertz attendant outside, for something more innocuous than a butterfly landing on your windowsill. That should have been a harbinger of things to come for me. I think I kind of knew it and was in cognitive dissonance mode.
I got inside and Betty Rubble’s going on and on about policies and what not. Mind you, I am a Gold Club customer. You are supposed to (figuratively) kiss my ass to make sure I am content, not KICK IT. So I’m getting the third degree, when she’s really upset with my local guys for sending me there. She claims they have no cars, but several people walked right up, looking like a vegetarian at Sunday dinner in a Puerto Rican household able to rent cars ostensibly without reservations. This was after my 15 minutes of going back and forth with Betty. This made me furious. Just pouring more propane onto the fire that burned. Then the manager comes out looking like he just finished teaching an African-American History course at Howard and spews all this P&P garbage like I don’t know this stuff inside and out — and had already exhibited such to him. I just wanted to know what my recourse was. I am running late. By this time, I had been at Reagan for an hour. I had planned to be on the road shortly after 11 am. It was now 12:45. He comes back twice saying he was searching for the very car that I had brought in to exchange. How do you “lose” a car in your own lot? It took him another 20 minutes to do this. I was about to reach Colin Ferguson (not that one, but the one Long Islanders have come to despise). He comes back finally to tell me that the car was “cleaned and gas full” — as if the needle moved by driving 17 miles from the Harbor, or that I would be driving it beyond returning it to another location).
Again. Whatever. What are we going to do about this screw job on you guys’ part, is the question?
So I called my guys at the local edition and, again, being helpful as always (and really what they should have done from the start, but they are allowed this mulligan), they got me what I needed from Alexandria. Now all I needed to do was drive down from Arlington — but on the Potomac side, at the airport, which meant local traffic — to downtown Alexandria.
There was some sort of cop convention in the area this weekend. Because naturally. A cavalcade of cops on motorcyles in uniform come buzzing down Jeff Davis. A good 75 of them. Not exaggerating or guesstimating. Sat through two lights.
I get on 395 to head down, and this Asian girl is driving alone, laughing hysterically. At what, I have no idea. But in typical Virginia Maniac fashion, she’s swinging around the on ramp to merge onto highway traffic. Her head never once moved to look to see if the lane was clear. She just began veering. I could feel she was about to do this. Anyone who has ever driven in Northern Queens back in New York knows what I mean. That is as far as I will go with this description. But I reacted accordingly and avoided what would have surely been a 4-5 car pileup. A car crash in back to back days in which I had no fault in either. Thankfully, that did not occur. That’s another reason I am not complaining much, just detailing how ridiculous everything was. Murphy’s Law, erstwhile of this near-incident.
I get to the local edition in Alexandria. Smooth sailing. In and out of there in three minutes. The way it normally is. I go onto the road at 1:30 PM. A fire of a thousand beasts was about to be unleashed and thankfully I didn’t have to deal with anyone but a barista at Starbuck’s down near Richmond and my cousin who does my hair, who I didn’t get to for SEVEN HOURS after hitting the highway (normal time travel from the same points is right at three hours, for comparison). This is all I saw for about 100 miles (and four and a half hours):
As soon as 395 merged into 95, the entire interstate ground to a complete standstill. Including the
ripoff express lanes in the middle. Those express lanes are junk. All they do is dump off the people who speed through there at a junction that causes traffic to back up for everyone else at one junction (one of the reasons why Fredericksburg is [usually] the line of demarcation for the uber-ridiculous “Virginia Traffic.”)
Not today, though.
Everyone got it. Northbound was bad, as is to be expected. Southbound express was bad, partially because there was a wreck involving some lunatic doing 90+ in driving rains and rear-ended someone. The other reason? Cops were out there nabbing people every 2-3 miles. They made a killing. I am of full certitude. So between the pulls and the dump offs at awful locations onto the main interstate, this is partly what led to nonstop backups from Franconia (Exit 170 or so) and Exit 67. That’s just-outside-DC THROUGH Richmond, for those who don’t know the exits in this region. This Waze snapshot can kind of give you an idea:
Not even my music had a calming effect. I was antsy, aggravated, agitated, angry and really feeling like I would snap if someone had even bumped my car. I can never understand why traffic backs up in areas where there aren’t wrecks. Then you see what people do on the road and you at least see why it happens, even if you don’t understand the mentality behind it. I lost count, but I saw about 15+ wrecks, several different trucks stalling in the middle of the interstate, several tow trucks, several EMS and fire trucks, and of course the obligatory worst-place-possible construction zone. I saw a woman “driving” with her knees doing 80+ in the rain with both hands on her cell phone and looking down.
I hate everyone who uses their cell phones and can’t maintain lane integrity or awareness of all four quadrants and blind spots. I can use my phone while driving. I drive with paranoia. I am checking my perimeters at all times. It is why I have avoided so many sure-fire wrecks. I can anticipate them. Some people can’t get in the car and do anything other than drive without causing an incident on the road. Whether it is an inability to talk and drive with good sense at the same time, or use their phone for whatever reason and stay in their lane. At least three of the crashes I saw (I don’t call them “accidents” since they are 100% avoidable with people on their phones) were due to people doing the most ridiculous things possible with their phones while traveling high rates of speed in the rain (!!!)
Nevertheless, once I got to Petersburg and later, the notorious Dinwiddie County, it cleared out for all of about 8 miles or so. Petersburg was a parking lot due to a wreck. As Murphy’s Law would have it, it was merely three miles before the I-85 junction; meaning if I had been ahead of the wreck, I would have passed this without having to slow down, as I use 85 South from there. But, you know, everything that happened before that point ensured that I would be behind it all.
Another 30 minutes of bumper to bumper.
Dinwiddie was rather quiet. It had stopped raining in that area, also. I was busting it (not saying what I was doing, but it was “healthy”, albeit not “Two Wheels Joe Cascino” though). Naturally, this is where they have a one-lane thing going, and yet another wreck. Not quite as long, but this is a 70 MPH speed zone and usually where I get my second wind and make some time. Fail.
Strike three, and I am out of Virginia not long after clearing that congestion.
One lane the whole way on 85 until I get to my cousin’s exit. Northern North Carolina has become a PCZ like many areas throughout New York City when it comes to Interstate 85. It feels like they have had one of the lanes blocked in both northbound and southbound directions for years. It has probably been two or three, but they have barely done any work. Must be the same no-show union work. Knowing that state, it would not come as a shock. Some assbackwardness of unparalleled zeniths in many regards in North Carolina. We shall not go there.
As previously stated, it took me about 7 hours from Point A to Point B when it has taken as few as 2 1/2 hours and usually between 3 and 3 1/2 TOPS in every trip I have made from here to there since moving here. And that’s been about 9 or 10 now. So if I appeared to be angry on my social channels, just know that I couldn’t type every expletive that actually came to mind and out of my mouth. I need to stop traveling alone. I need companionship to calm me down and engage me in something productive that takes my mind off figuring out why people drive 15 miles per hour below the speed limit in the left lane or rear end people who they are staring at for hundreds of feet at a time ahead of them. Without moving. I am going to snap on an unwitting traveler if this does not change.
Rhoda gave me the Mickey Mouse ears hairstyle. I like it. I like getting weird looks from people. I couldn’t give any less of a fraction of a fuck. I have self-actualized. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. It is a great place to be in life. But more to the point, that style requires no maintenance, isn’t a distraction, and can stay in place for a while. I’ve got some good things on the horizon and it was definitely time to tame the wild mop that I had developed over the two months since I had last gotten it done.
The trip back was easy. Of course it was. I dropped off Rhoda for her weekend and hit the road. It was virtually midnight. I had not eaten all day. In fact, the only thing I ingested all day was my daily water in the morning and the cup of coffee in Richmond. I had been running nonstop since 7 am (off a couple of hours of sleep), had a headache and, as a result of the obvious delirium, ATE AT MCDONALD’S.
It wasn’t raining for most of the way back, it began to pick up a bit when I got closer to home, but who cares? It was 3 am. There was hardly a soul on the roads.
Except on 210. There’s always someone out there. Somehow.
Side Note: Don’t ever let me hear any of you who get stuck in 15 minutes of traffic complaining about sitting in traffic again.
I have sat in traffic in New York (obviously) and New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, throughout the mid-Atlantic and DC area, Virginia (all my life), North Carolina (virtually same), even Atlanta and Miami traffic.
Nothing is worse than literally riding bumper to bumper for 120 of a possible 180 miles and doing so for nearly five hours. Not even Los Angeles traffic can top that.
Alas, I made it home safely. And I’m still gonna have my crab legs. Not all is bad.