We spent Saturday night in Red Deer this past weekend, driving down for some pre-Christmas family fun and visiting. It was intended to be a quick trip.
For those who stumble across this rant who may be unfamiliar with the geography of Central Alberta, Red Deer is located roughly one hundred and fifty kilometers South of our house in Edmonton. On a good day, timed and measured with regular frequency, the drive — edging just a hair over the recommended speed of 110 km/h — takes a little less than an hour an a half, allowing for traffic and lights on each end. Even in the most horrible of conditions, in the deep of winter when blowing snow and icy patches cover the asphalt, and when even the least timid of drivers are moving at what seems barely a crawl, the drive has rarely taken more than three hours.
Last night it took four and a half. Hours.
I’ve prepared an emergency checklist for things to do when stuck within an accident related-traffic jam for three hours on a major highway on a Sunday evening. In no particular order, you can…
… watch your fellow motorists make fools of themselves attempting to turn around on a highway through four lanes (three traffic, one merge) of parked vehicles, blocking other motorists who are sneaking up the shoulder and also the approach of emergency vehicles still attempting to get to the scene of the accident some three-hundred meters ahead.
… surf the radio bands, attempting to locate a station not being operated by a robotic disc jockey late on a Sunday evening in futile hopes of hearing a traffic update and news of what is going on in the vast sea of parked vehicles ahead of you.
… dig out the laptop computer from the trunk, poking around in all those forgotten files for something entertaining to do besides stare at the tail lights of the car in front of you, such as looking for games, working video files, and the most slim chance of an open WiFi connection in the middle of the highway.
… take the dog for a walk along the side of the road while the other motorists sitting in their cars watch her do her business in the snow-filled ditch, shivering in the wind and nervously darting her gaze at the hundreds of prying eyes.
… enjoy the spectacle of the girl in the car next to your screaming insults out the window at the aforementioned motorists who are still making fools of themselves attempting to turn around on a highway through four lanes of parked vehicles.
… make numerous long distance cell phone calls to family back home who may be able to scrounge up some nugget of information about your predicament on the internet, radio, television on a Sunday evening when no one but the people sitting beside an accident on the highway care about an accident on the highway blocking traffic for three hours. (They never do.)
… send text messages to your brother-in-law who will promptly respond by laughing at your predicament (you can just see him sitting there with a big, stupid grin on his face) and who will send numerous unhelpful observations back to you in classically-garbled txt spk.
… root around in your luggage for food and find only completely useless items that are completely inappropriate for consuming in just such a predicament, including nine liters of homemade wine, two tins of loose tea, a chocolate-filled advent calendar, and a bag of dog-food. Feed the dog instead.
… try not to think about having to go to the bathroom.
… wonder how long before someone falls of the roof of their car while trying to see what is going on ahead.
… count the number of (a) people wandering up and down the highway between the parked cars, (b) cigarettes smoked by the ‘gangsta’ in the car next to you, (c) radio stations with inane programming at ten o’clock on a Sunday evening, (d) emergency vehicles who show up remarkably late in the proceedings of an accident that blocks four lanes of traffic on a major highway, (e) taxi-cabs who demonstrate the patience of a gnat and (f) glowing cell phone handsets you can see from where you are sitting.
… conjure up a long mental list of creative and non-whiny ways to explain your experience in a blog post the next morning.