Tunnel Vision: My Boring Life

October 28th, 2009 by Brendan O'Hallarn

Tunnel-VisionThis, I’m certain, is a byproduct of being a journalist for 15 years.

In the daily news media, my job was wildly different every day. So when I wasn’t working, to my wife’s eternal chagrin, I craved, absolutely adored, my little mundane routines.

“I like to plan my spontaneity,” I’d argue.

Every Saturday, we’d get up, I’d make eggs, and we’d eat breakfast while listening to the CBC Radio show “Go.”

For breakfast on Sunday in Winnipeg, we went every week, in order, to the seven different breakfast places we frequented. I would typically order the same thing.

I sat in the exact same spot on our green corduroy couch when watching TV. (That wasn’t hard; the lack of springs made you sink into the middle.)

Most importantly, every suggestion of “Let’s go to the zoo,” or “Do you want to go for a run?” would need to be processed through my “But we didn’t plan that” filter.

I do a job that’s a little more predictable now. But I think that boring-ization of my non-working life is the reason I’ve been able to adjust to life as a commuter drone.

Confession: I actually, kinda, sorta like driving to and from the office. It’s predictable.

(Remind me of this when it’s just rained for two days and every underpass is flooded and it takes three hours to get to work.)

The fact that I’ve normalized driving 41.2 miles each way is probably why I just shrugged at two reports that came out last week on the abysmal state of our infrastructure and traffic congestion.

Old Dominion University’s state of the region report, authored by former university President James Koch, said that Hampton Roads is the 34th largest metro area, but our worst hour of traffic is 14th worst in the country.

“The delay and congestion is getting worse every day of the year,” the report states.

The reason: delays at bridges and tunnels.

Then another report, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, came out the next day and gave Virginia a grade of D-plus for the condition of its bridges and tunnels. That’s marginally ahead of the national average of a D.

The Society wants to see a five-year investment of $2.2 trillion, to avoid other disasters like the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the levee failures in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.

So our traffic is getting worse every single day, and it’s only a matter of time before we see other catastrophic failures of bridges and tunnels, unless we spend a pile of money we don’t have.

My response? “Oh, that’s interesting. Hey, what’s for dinner tonight?”

The ODU report also said rising sea water levels are one of the biggest challenges facing low-lying Hampton Roads.

On the weekend, my wife, kids and I drove to Norfolk to watch the ODU men’s basketball team practice. We got a little taste of the high water challenges that could soon face our infrastructure.

The nor’easter that brought that crummy weather over the weekend pushed a bunch of water into the Chesapeake Bay. When we drove through the Larchmont area next to ODU there were a few streets under a foot of water, just from the water level rising on the Lafayette River.

We weaved through the rapidly rising water, and took a higher-elevation road home. But it raised a more important question – at least to me.
We decided on a whim to make the drive that day. Does that mean I’m becoming spontaneous?

Like Brendan, do you actually, kinda, sorta, like commuting? Or do you hate it with every fiber of your being? Either way, we want to hear from you. Write us at brendan@wydaily.com. C’mon, do something spontaneous for once!

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