Lately my commute to and from work has become more and more difficult. It’s forcing me to make one of those tough choices that often confront modern Americans — between time and stress.
In days gone by I would leave the house a little before 7 a.m., encounter light traffic on 161, see a moderate increase in traffic as I moved onto I-270 and finally I-670, and then cruise down Third Street. Absent an accident, I made it downtown in about 25 minutes and almost never had to stop on the freeway.
Those days, sadly, are over. Even though I leave at the same time, traffic has gotten much worse. I often hit bumper-to-bumper congestion as soon as I merge onto 161 and routinely have to come to a dead stop on I-270 and I-670 as I inch my way downtown. It may be the increasing number of people who are living in the northeast part of town, or perhaps it’s a change in traffic patterns brought about by the highway construction that has occurred over the past few years. Whatever the reason, there are many more cars clogging up my formerly free-wheeling route.
The bad traffic means more stress. People who are frustrated by the gridlock change lanes abruptly. Some drivers — always the ones in front of you, of course — make no effort to close up gaps between them and the traffic ahead, so cars cut in constantly. You’re stuck behind a bus or a semi and can’t see what’s going on down the road. When traffic comes to a sudden stop, you worry about whether the driver of the car charging up to your rear is paying attention or will plow into you because he’s been checking his Facebook page on his cell phone.
Avoiding this kind of nerve-jangling commute is why I started leaving the house just before 7 a.m. in the first place. So now I’ve got a new choice — leave 15 minutes earlier and beat the increased traffic, or just endure the increased stress. Today I’ve decided to sacrifice the time to avoid the stress, but I’m not particularly happy about it.