Three months of driving to and from Norfolk has given me lots of material to write about, lots of things to complain about.
Congestion or speeders, crumbling infrastructure or construction, it seems like sometimes commuters can’t win.
However, a glorious weekend of weather has put me in a particularly sunny mood. So here are five things I like about driving to and from Old Dominion University every day.
License Plate Bingo. I have seen cars from every U.S. state in three months. C’mon, you haven’t seen Hawaii, you say. Au contraire. I said to my wife once that if she ever spots a Hawaii license plate on the mainland, I will give her a crisp $100 bill to spend on whatever she wishes. It continues to drive her crazy that she hasn’t seen one yet. I’ve seen three in the past two weeks, and I call my wife every time. Funny, dinner’s never ready when I get home on those nights.
Billboards that amuse only me. Of course the Chick-fil-A cows are good for a chuckle, but there are two other billboards that make my day. The Wanted billboards put up by the FBI make me laugh out loud because almost all of them have CAPTURED written in red lettering across the picture of the hapless criminal. Is the FBI bragging? It’s like putting STILL DEAD on the top of the obituary pages.
The other billboard I enjoy is the daily reminder of how much I won’t win in the Mega Millions this week. It’s currently $181 million. That makes me think of something a friend of mine said about winning the lottery, the best “what would you do?” answer I ever heard. He told me flatly, “The first thing I’d do is stay up all night making a list of people I WASN’T giving money to.”
My Tide/NPR/CD ritual. I’ve always been this way. The wildly different nature of journalism every day makes me crave my mundane little routines. This might make me appear compulsive, but I start every drive in the morning listening to The Tide. As soon as I hear Tom Davis read the local news, I switch to NPR (the signal starts to fade closer to the tunnel anyway). Then as soon as I lose the NPR signal in the tunnel, I flip on a CD, currently The White Stripes, which I listen to for the rest of the trip. Every drive is exactly the same. Doesn’t that make you want to hang out with me?
Knowing exactly how far I can go in my car. This is also on the compulsive side. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage I get in my car on my daily trips. Until I pick up a crappy little four-cylinder vehicle to save money on gas, I know I can get as many as 374 miles with a tank. One of life’s little victories is going further and further with the fuel light on. Check back with me after I run out of gas on the Interstate. Then this will be one of the things I don’t like about commuting.
Finally, the Magic Weave. This is by far my favorite discovery. As you drive up Terminal Boulevard toward Interstate 64 in Norfolk at the end of the day, you know that six or seven miles of stop-and-go traffic awaits. It’s gotten so that if I can roll at speed on I-64, even for a few hundred yards, I feel like I’m winning.
However, and I can’t believe I’m sharing this, I’ve figured out the traffic flow on the Interstate between I-564 and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. And it’s not even by racing up the shoulder like idiots with tinted windows do.
When you get on the Interstate, get immediately in the left-hand lane. Traffic is slower on the right as cars merge from Terminal Boulevard and then Granby Street. But the moment you get past Granby, get to the right lane. The next two exits cause traffic to leave the right-hand lane. When you pass the “Tunnel Three Miles, Check Gas,” sign, get back left. Who knows why? Then as soon as you get on the bridge that has the tunnel, get right again. The cars looking at the aircraft carriers always drive slower.
Trust me on this. You will pass 100 cars a day. I can’t believe how good it makes me feel knowing this information. It almost makes my commute worth it.
We know there are things you hate about commuting, but what are some of the things you like? Got any traffic-related ideas you’d like Brendan to explore? Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just know he’ll laugh at you if he sees you getting a speeding ticket.