Back when I was living in LA, I commuted from La Verne to Santa Monica for a while. One day, while mired in traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway, I noticed a fresh cabbage against the divider next to the fast lane. Now, I’m not sure how a fresh cabbage came to be on the Santa Monica Freeway, nor is that really relevant to my story; but every day I would crawl past that cabbage, and every day I had time enough to contemplate it.
I grew to anticipate seeing that piece of produce on my journey from tedium to monotony. It marked progress, however slow; a spherical green milepost that poked a hole in my boredom and distracted me from the endless asphalt and bumpers. Then one day, I noticed the cabbage was getting smaller, then darker, shrinking as though the toll of inexorable sameness was sucking the life and color out of it. As the days passed, it shrivelled from a cabbage to a small brown baseball, a mummified marker of the inevitable passage of time, lost forever in my slow motion death march. Finally, it disappeared altogether, like any hope I had of ending my commuting groundhog day.
I like to imagine it was picked up by an eagle, like Frodo from the slopes of Mount Doom, and transported to a green meadow by the sun dappled shore of a babbling brook. That sustained me until I was laid off, and my nightmare came to an end. I was never so glad to lose a job as I was then.
Anyone have any experiences while stuck in traffic?
In the early 80s, I used to commute from just south of Baltimore to the Pentagon. I can’t count the number of times I’d pass a car sitting on the side of the road, apparently broken down, then the next day I’d pass the same car, pretty much stripped of anything that could be taken and sold. I guess in the days before we had cell phones, we’d leave our cars and hope for the best, huh?
Tho now that I think of it, those could have been stolen cars, left along the road to be stripped down later. Anyway, I’m glad I had a relatively new and reliable vehicle for my commute.
There’s an intersection on my commute where, in the past year or so, they’ve made it “no left turn” between 7:00 and 9:00 AM for the direction that would cross the morning rush. During the pilot project, they had a crew setting up and taking down cones every morning. Now there are two signs with the time restriction as you approach, and a lit sign at the intersection that changes from left-arrow to crossed-out-left-arrow.
My entertainment is to see how many cars are patiently waiting in the turning lane for a signal that’s not going to change for another 45 minutes. Usually it’s 1-3.
The wife used to commute along a long stretch of Sacramento Valley freeway that jammed to a halt for many minutes most days. During summer, the sport was to count the number of rats running across the road, dodging from car to car, getting from farm fields to commercial strip and back again. It was not unusual, in high summer, to count a dozen or more from one position.
I used to commute past a grave marker company. Once I noticed a Raggedy Ann tombstone made out of red granite. It was there the next day, and the day after, and I figured out that the company hadn’t sold it, but had it on hand “on spec” as it were.
I started to get obsessed about the fact that somewhere there was a little girl walking around and playing with her toys and going to school and living her life, all unknowing that her tombstone was sitting there on the corner waiting for her.
I didn’t want it to disappear, because that would have meant she had died, but I didn’t want to keep seeing it every day either. It didn’t help that I had a daughter of the appropriate age for that marker. It bothered the hell out of me for a good six months before it was finally used. I felt pretty bad about it, but relieved as well.
That was nearly forty years ago, and now I sometimes wonder if my urn is sitting out on a shelf waiting for me. Might be, I don’t know what the turnover on those things is like.
And the cabbage
the Santa Monica Freeway
The cabbage seems just subtly wrong,
Like a cantaloupe wearing a sarong
Somehow it’s lying there,
bringing a faint stench of rotting to the air
It’s a dark road when you start thinking like that. I’ve occasionally looked in the mirror (such as before a plane flight) and wondered if these were the clothes I was going to die in. I haven’t bought a car in a while, but one of my thoughts while first driving them is “is this the car that’s going to kill me?”
Of course, I have a dark streak following me around these days - I bring home a new puppy in a few weeks, and having lost too many dogs and just lost a soulmate boy last fall, I am far too conscious that all those sweet puppy days are one end of a road that never ends well. I am also (just) of an age where this could be a dog that outlives me - maybe true at any age, but the odds are catching up.
But yeah, blank gravestones and the like… they’re Just Waiting.
I ws in St. Louis once with a couple of hours to kill and was just sort of driving around on a Sunday morning, and I came to a railroad crossing with the gate down and bells ringing. There was no train in sight. So I shut off my engine and got out a book and read for a while. Every once in a while a car would come up benhind me, pause a few seconds, and then cross over into the other lane and croas the tracks and go on. One of the drivers who did that was driving a Sunday School bus bull of kids. Someone got out and stood on the tracks and waved the bus across.
Life was very different in the era before the universal cell phone.
I frequently work in, but don’t live in, San Francisco. We’re far enough away that using public transportation would require a train/bus/BART combination and I just prefer the simplicity of driving myself. Unfortunately, in the last few years getting out of the city any time after, say, two o’clock has turned into an absolute nightmare. Driving the 1.3 miles from where I park downtown to the Bay Bridge headed home can take anywhere from forty minutes to two hours.
I started counting how many times the traffic light ahead of me will turn green while I remain at a dead stop. The record so far is 20.
I did try that once. The nearest station to my house is in Concord … about an hour away. Even with all of the issues that come with driving, it still took longer and I found the whole thing marginally more stressful.
Huh. In experience with four cities, I’ve found driving to a light rail station in a pleasant suburb, then riding it for 30-90 minutes to come up in the dense heart of the city to be a rather relaxing way to do things.
I was headed home from Lomita to Santa Monica on the 405 freeway and traffic halted with me under an overpass. I noticed a man with a clipboard and some sort of tool standing next to a City of LA truck. Then I remembered that there had been an earthquake that morning. Not a huge one with things falling down but still. It looked like he was checking the overpass for structural damage. I was pretty glad when traffic moved along so I could get out from under that thing.
Not traffic, but part of my commute.
I used to pass a guy each morning as I was walking to the tube station and he was taking his dog for a walk. I could tell if I was going to miss my train by what part of the hill we passed on. We used to nod to each other in passing, but never actually spoke.
One day I bumped into him in a pub in central london and we both said hello, before realising we don’t really know each other. It was so strange seeing him not on the hill and not with a labrador!
Also not traffic, but a part of a regular workday:
I used to go and swim at the Y early in the morning (7am-ish) to get my day started. Almost every morning, I would pass a guy in a pink flannel shirt walking on the opposite side of the road, coming towards me. At first he was Huge, with a capital hugh, had a walking stick, and was about 65% walk / 35% wobble.
Over the course of a year+, he deflated - he lost a lot, lot of weight, lost the walking stick, lost the wobble, kept the pink shirt, and kept on walking. I always wanted to pull over and congratulate him, but it seemed inappropriate - who knew why he was losing the weight? (“Oh, thanks, I can’t take the credit for it - it’s all the cancers.”)
Then one day, just like that - (poof!) - he’s gone. Never saw him again. Always wondered what his story was - and hopefully still is.
Well, my commute consists of walking downstairs (or sometimes, picking up the lap desk on the floor in the corner of the bedroom) so the usual oddball sight for me is the (artificial) Christmas tree still sitting in the living room, bare of decorations (long story as to why we don’t presently have access to storage for it).
My husband commutes from Virginia into Maryland. Back before the new Wilson Bridge was constructed, he used to see cars parked along the interstate just off the bridge - apparently it was a fairly popular thing to park your car there, hike down to the river, and go fishing. I sure as hell wouldn’t eat any fish caught in the Potomac unless I was in a hurry to get poisoned and die :eek:.
To the OP: that cabbage was clearly placed to sustain you during your upcoming unemployment. You were meant to stop, grab it, take it home and turn it into soup.
In the “irrational fears” department: I used to commute to an office about 8 miles away. My commute was anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour depending on traffic (and there was seldom a “reason” for the hour-long commutes, i.e. no major accidents - it was just DC-area random screw-with-your-commute karma). One route I took involved going under the Beltway on a local road. Since the traffic lights could be long, I was often stuck under that overpass - 8 lanes of traffic. For no good reason, I always felt twitchy when stuck there - I figured it it collapsed, it’d be a couple days before they dug my minivan/coffin out from under the rubble.
Heh - yeah, if the rail / home / office situation is conducive, I’ll happily take the train by choice. We live a couple miles away from the Metro, and my client is a few blocks away. If everything is perfect it’s faster to drive - but it’s VERY rare that everything is perfect - I typically find that any time saved by not waiting for the train is eaten by by the gridlock / parking hunt near the client. When I factored in the cost of parking versus Metro fare and parking at the Metro (or bus fare to/from) it was a wash, cost-wise. Like you I enjoyed the train ride (helped by the fact that we live near the end of the line so I always got a seat).
But if it’s an hour to get to the train, then the train ride, and/or the gridlock situation at the work end isn’t as bad, I’d consider driving.
Every day, when I got off the L at Howard on my way to work, there was a homeless lady sitting there who would say “got a quarter for me honey?”. Most days I did and she was pleased to get it and not mean if I didn’t have one that day (I was young and pretty broke). Sometimes if I was a little flush I’d grab two specials from the hotdog place and give her one. It it was rainy or snowy I’d try and get her to go to the soup kitchen/shelter nearby, but she liked being on her own. The day I left that job I stopped and chatted with her a minute and gave her $5 since I wouldn’t be around anymore.
I was lonely in the city back then, it was nice to have that one human interaction each day. I’ve always hoped another young kid decided to step in an keep an eye on her.