JAM, THE LAST OBSTACLE

Continuing homeward on I-80, on my last breath, my last ounce of strength (or so I thought)  I crossed Illinois and approached Chicago,  the city of my most formative years.  I love this city.   But I knew it mainly before I got my driver’s license!       I thought I had only “hours” more of driving until I was home at last, and I texted Son to that effect.  It was Friday and I was more than ready to be home.

And then my lane slowed down.  All eastward bound lanes slowed down.   To a crawl.    3 m.p.h. — when we moved at all.   As a matter of fact,  all SIX lanes slowed to a crawl.  I was hearing the local news on the radio: “A traffic accident at Cicero Ave. has all eastbound lanes on I-80 blocked.   Crews are still working on the accident.”

jam rush

(Not my photo;  lots more semi-trucks;   I was surrounded by towering semis who were also caught in the jam and impatient cars who were changing lanes for no apparent reason.)

Another hour later,  I was still hearing the same announcement on the radio.      Our crawl was going to come to a complete stop pretty soon.    One half hour later I saw a lot of blinkers on the cars ahead of me.    Way, way ahead.

Another fifteen minutes or so of pretend-forward movement,  I saw that I-80 had been blocked off by police barricades.  All cars – all tens of thousands of the cars with me — were being diverted into the city.    INTO the city.    Although I had timed my by-pass of Chicago for two hours before rush hour,  there was no avoiding it now.

And this was quite the busy weekend for Chicago:  annual citizen sports events,  summer concerts,  some kind of special art show — and the biggest event of all, one that draws millions of people into the city for the weekend:  Taste of Chicago!   A wonderful destination, as long as you don’t have a car.

All of us in cars were apparently heading that way.

My new five-lane superhighway into the city moved more quickly, but the right two lanes, if you were unfortunate enough to be there, were not moving.   As I whizzed” by at 30 m.p.h.,  I saw that every exit ramp was jammed full with cars, causing the two right-hand lanes of cars  wanting to join them to come to a complete stop, waiting for their turn.

I had no idea where I was going.  Vaguely “north.”   Into downtown.   Into The Loop.   Congested or not, here I come.

And it was now the time I had estimated that I would have arrived at my own home.

Well, I decided to continue north until I found a “doable” exit ramp.    When I did,  I got dumped right into the south side of Chicago.

jam southEnough said.   (You’ve heard  about this area on the news recently.   As in “weekend shootings. . . .”

But,  you know how they say, no matter how bad off you are, there is always someone in a worse condition?

I found a McDonald’s which turned out to be safe and fairly decent –  and all the facilities were working.   And then I could think.   Then I saw there at a booth a nice older couple,  neatly dressed, white, both wearing glasses,  and pouring over a city map, looking plenty bewildered.    I went over to them, thinking to maybe encourage them somehow.   I asked them kindly if they had just come out of that traffic mess on I-80.       And they had, of course.

I realized at least I was familiar with the names of the streets and they were not.   They had no idea what the names meant, as to locating them in safe or unsafe places,  through streets or city dead-ends.      Their map helped me make a plan  (an escape route?)  but I have to say that I don’t think I helped them at all.   And here is why – it’s a lesson for all of us:

1.    By now, they couldn’t really decide where they wanted to go!   They had been aiming for a near west suburb,  but sometime during the traffic jam they decided they just wanted to return back home to their rural southern Illinois town.  I could not even help them make up their minds.   First of all,  it really wasn’t my business,  but, secondly,  they were just stuck in a zone of indecision.

2.    And I couldn’t help them because they believed their map would help them.  They were  again mentally “stuck,”  wanting their map to give them the solution.    All conversation reverted back to the map and their fingers and the penciled circles they were drawing on the map.    That was their safety.     I was only distracting them.

With a smile and a sincere silent prayer for them, I said good-bye.

Much to my amazement,  my plan worked — or, more likely,  my own sincere prayers were answered.

jam michIn an impossibly short time I was on “Memorial Parkway/I-94”    passing through Indiana,  heading into the Far North country… the land of few cars, lots of open spaces and trees.

I still wonder what happened to that nice, older couple who felt so out of place in the big city.

 

 

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One Comment on “JAM, THE LAST OBSTACLE”


  1. When I was a trucker, I usta plan many states away when I would I go thru Chicago…but, like you …unexpected things happen!
    I just cannot describe when I was FINALLY greeted by the WISCONSIN sign!


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