Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rush Hour Plan + Kit

What can I do to avoid gridlock?

Traffic standstill is like the great white shark in Jaws. As soon as you pull into the line at the on-ramp, you can hear the eerie soundtrack. It’s out there, it’s coming, and our best minds can’t seem to stop it.

The best way to avoid it, of course, is not to be there when it happens. So plan ahead. Check the radio for alerts and warnings. Read the newspaper in the morning to find out what’s going on in your community and when it’s happening. Then do what your department of transportation should have done for you years ago: work out perimeter routes. You’ll cover more distance, but in the long run, they’ll save you extra hours of anger, frustration, and a possible angioplasty.

Even with the most carefully planned escape routes, though, you can still get stuck. So be prepared. Depending upon where we live in this nation, we motorists carry a variety of disaster caches in the trunks of our cars. We’re ready for blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods -- you name it. However, we never seem to be prepared for the hours of grinding, infuriating, despair caused by gridlock and traffic jams, which are increasingly a simple fact of life.

I never leave home without my wait-it-out kit. It contains books on tape to take me out of there metaphysically if not physically, energy bars to sustain me and several large containers of my favorite bottled water to hydrate me. A cell phone and a Prozac or two are optional.

One last tip: Turn off your engine after five minutes of idling. If it overheats, when Officer Moses parts the traffic to let everyone through, you’ll be sitting there steaming and may become the cause of another major traffic tie-up.