Thursday, October 16, 2014

Breaking Even

Interstate 195, which runs between Cape Cod and Providence, RI
Google Maps Street View
So Wednesday I had to take The Missus Herself to the airport for the first stage of her latest mission to California. Flight was scheduled to leave at approximately 1006 local, departure from Chez Sarge was set for 0800 local. Everything went according to plan.

Until we got half way to Providence on that road shown above, I-195, what I like to call "The Moron Highway." The road was this slowly moving (think less than 5 mph) nightmare. People were swapping lanes willy-nilly, all seeking the Holy Grail of the faster moving lane.

Like the Grail, that didn't exist.

I call this road "The Moron Highway" for several reasons. One is the tendency of many travelers on this road to camp out in the middle lane and go under the virtual speed limit. The other is the tendency of some travelers to hit the far left lane to pass someone, then stay there all the while slowly decelerating back to being under the virtual speed limit.

Not to mention the multiple times I've seen occupants of that middle lane texting on their cellphones. Or reading the newspaper. Seriously, reading the newspaper. What, dude can't afford an iPad? I mean, who reads newspapers anymore?

So displays of idiocy on this particular highway are not unknown.

What's that? What's a "virtual speed limit"? Simple, you have three speed limits on any highway in the U.S., and they are:
  1. The actual, posted speed limit. Which is what you see on the signs beside the road, if you're paying attention. On I-195 (outside of Rhode Island) that speed limit is 65 mph.
  2. The "I think I see a cop" speed limit. Which is typically 5 to 10 mph under the posted speed limit. Why people do that is beyond me. I shocked a buddy once by actually passing a state trooper. "You just passed a cop!" he said, all aghast. "Dude, the cop was doing 55, the speed limit is 65. He's a cop, not a pace car."
  3. The virtual speed limit. This is that mystical "keeping pace with traffic" speed limit. It's the "safety in numbers, they can't stop all of us" speed limit. This can be anywhere from 5 mph to 20 mph above the posted speed limit. I kid you not. In Massachusetts, on the interstate highway system, 85 mph seems to be the standard.
So, that's what I call the virtual speed limit. I've even had police officers confirm that. One used this phrase (after pulling me over) "Geez Sarge, keep it down to 75 like everyone else, willya?" No, I didn't get a ticket but the trooper thought I passed a semi with a bit more panache than he thought prudent. In hindsight, I have to agree. (But damn it, it felt good to go 85 after trailing this a-hole for twenty miles!)

So. Where was I? Oh yeah, on the way to T.F. Green in Warwick, Little Rhody's airport of choice.

So there I was (see any Juvat post), stuck in traffic, watching the clock tick down to the "we're not gonna make the flight" time.

We were now moving at a sluggish, stop and go, 10 mph pace. Well, when we weren't at a dead stop. Saw one kid pull into the median (grass and trees, about 50 yards wide) and cross over to the other side. (No, no, no. Not that "other side," the other side of the interstate!) The look on his face was priceless. At first I was offended at his scofflaw attitude. A few minutes more of sitting, not moving, I began to admire the young lad's devil-may-care, eff-this, attitude.

Shortly thereafter, the love of my life decided to take command of this mission and directed Your Humble Scribe to take the next exit. We can skirt this mess, she said with confidence, and get back on the interstate on the other side. (No, no, no. Not that one. I thought we covered this?)

I protested that, surely all of those other folks getting off at the exit have the exact same idea. Which means that we would just be exchanging one traffic jam for another. Only the other one would also have the "joy of traffic lights."

The Missus Herself was giving off signals now that her "suggestion" to get off at the next exit was "directive in nature." So, good trooper that I am, I aimed Big Girl's nose at the exit and got onto the "surface roads," as the men and women of law enforcement are wont to call them (at least that's what all those episodes of Cops taught me).

There we traveled at a lusty and robust 40 mph for all of about a quarter of a mile.

Then we were, once again, in traffic Hell.

After a great deal of foul language, imprecations against whatever cruel fate decided to snarl traffic on this day and a lot of "You're an idiot" looks from the mother of my children, we aborted the "let's skirt this mess" concept and got back on the interstate. About a mile west of where we'd left it. Further on, but no closer to our goal. Which, I remind you, was the airport.

Traffic was no longer stalled, now it was sluggish. Turning to the answer to my prayers I said, "We're gonna need a miracle to get you to the airport on time."

(Hhmm, why does she keep sighing and shaking her head?)

At that point traffic began to move. I mean really move. Slowly we approached the "I think I see a cop" speed limit, passed that, got to the actual speed limit and then, lo and behold, traffic was flying, a good 10 to 15 mph above the posted speed limit. We had a chance. A slim chance, but if nothing else went wrong, we would make it on time.

Now as the airport exit came insight, I told The Missus Herself that I would drop her off at the Departures area so she could begin the checking in process while I sought a place to park the car. Oddly enough, she agreed. Not that I was expecting an argument, well, I was but that's a tale for another time.

Dropped her off, headed for the parking lot.

We've won!

Got to the United counter to find the lady of my dreams shaking her head and looking all adrift.

"What's wrong?" I asked. (I have a keen sense when it comes to detecting trouble.)

"Stupid machine says that I don't have a reservation."

"Hhmm, let me try."

Nope. Nada. Nothing. Ain't no damn reservation.

Then the lady behind the counter says, "Oh, that flight has been delayed. So we cancelled your reservation."

We've lost! Despair, doom and despair. Oh shit, oh dear. What do we do now?

Then the lady of the counter says, "Because it's going to be so late, we've booked you on another flight. You'll get to L.A. in time to make your flight to Fresno. Here's your boarding pass."

We've...

I don't know. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes...

You break even.

A text message received at 0238 local informed me that The Missus Herself was at The WSO's house. Safe and sound. Mission accomplished.

38 comments:

  1. Ah the lottery of travel ;) To misquote old Napoleon BonesApart, "No (travel) plan survives beyond first contact with the enemy/public/airline/weather/dickheads on the road............."

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    1. Especially the "dickheads on the road"!

      What really fried my backside was an attempt to listen to the radio, "local weather and traffic" which would normally tell us that there's an accident/breakdown/something at such-and-such a location.

      All the radio said, "traffic is heavy and backed up to..."

      Really, I can see that. WHY YOU BLOODY MORONS, WHY?

      Not a peep. Apparently it was a "mystery" as to the whys and wherefores of the traffic being a mess.

      Delete
    2. A car needs a drone. Launch down-range and do a pre-route survey.
      I tend to avoid the stress and leave plenty of time for road hazards. I have an iPad and a kindle and sony ebook reader. In short, I travel without 500 books. Hanging around in an airline departure lounge or restaurant holds no fears for me excepting when I'm traveling with the dragon. Even my little girl didn't object to my foibles because she and I love to walk the wrong way on slidewalks (as long as nobody is coming the proper way).
      I've never understood the "just-in-time" approach to catching your flight out or your flight home.

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    3. I cannot dissuade The Missus Herself from her "just in time" philosophy. I am a firm believer in getting there way ahead of time.

      Something the Air Force drummed into me, must be ready to board two hours prior. Not checked in, not at the airport but ready to board.

      Sigh...

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    4. A drone is a good idea, A vulcan cannon on a swivel mount on the roof would be better. Just sitting there = normal deterrent. Point it at 'em = heightened deterrent, Spin the barrels up = Extreme Deterrent. Warning shot=Last Chance. Fire for effect=Gene Pool Cleansing.

      A guy can dream can't he?

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    5. My dream vehicle is an M2 Bradley. Speed, fire power and it looks freaking awesome.

      But your idea has merit Juvat. With my car, I have lots of room for ammo storage as well.

      I also like your deterrent levels.

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  2. Ah, how I miss the populated lands! As I headed out to check cows this morning I saw that the (yes THE) stoplight wasn't working. I was behind a car going west, another car was heading east on the other side of the intersection. Westbound wanted to turn south, eastbound wanted to go straight. It was too hard. They inched ahead, inched ahead and gesticulated, paused, and then crashed together at a combined velocity of about 12 mph. I tooted shave and a haircut as I drove around the maroons and their mess. As I drove past the airport (KIBM) I waved at Doc Gerner, the 94 year-old former ETO Mustang driver, who was dragging his Stitz Playboy out of the hangar with the clear intent of slipping the surly bonds.

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    1. Damn but that sounds idyllic. There are days I miss the plains.

      Great story too. I've lived in towns that had but one traffic light.

      Tell Doc Gerner we all say Hi!

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  3. That would be the "Maroon" highway here.
    Worse, we don't have the benefit of three lanes, except occasionally, where it has been determined the hill may slow down trucks enough that other trucks want to pass at 30 mph, while still other truck sill want to pass those trucks at 31 mph.
    Hence, not accident or incident, just a freaking backup.

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    1. Trucks passing trucks on a hill. Saw it in Belgium all the time. The Germans called it the elephant dance.

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  4. The hardest job in the airline business is not the heavy equipment operator's, moving from town to town through snowstorm, lightning and hail. It is the job of the CSR (customer service rep - the counter guys and gals). No where else can you find folks who can take abuse for such a long period of time and still do their data entry and smile. It was my pleasure to work with outstanding folks in SFO,LAX and ATL (well actually in FAT, too) for twenty-five plus years. Generally speaking they are GREAT!

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    1. My experience is that the majority do their jobs and do them well. About ten percent go above and beyond and have things fixed before you even knew anything was wrong.

      OTH, I've dealt with a couple who were Satan's gift to the airline industry. Fortunately, they are very rare.

      Delete
  5. Speaking of traffic and bad drivers: http://madworldnews.com/crash-bad-idea-cut-across-lanes/

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    1. Damn! Traveling dumb and blind is no way to operate a motor vehicle!

      (FWIW, I've been on that road.)

      Delete
  6. The "elephant dance" is especially pernicious here. I-20 East of my on-ramp is 75MPH and West is 80MPH which makes the virtual speed limit around 90. And since the Hill Country isn't called that because it's flat...trucks passing at 30MPH would be a blessing. I've seen a 20 ship of various vehicles pass the elephants and each and every one give them a visual hand signal showing their appreciation.
    But, back in the day of the double nickle, a drive to El Paso was an all day event. Even driving 80, it's about 6 hours.

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    1. Hence the need for a Vulcan cannon.

      a 20 ship of various vehicles - you can take the boy out of fighters, but you can't take the fighter out of the boy!

      You can always tell a fighter pilot...

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    2. But you can't tell him much. Good grief, did I say that?

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    3. Nah! Sarge was thinking it so hard, he overloaded your neural pathways and the words just appeared.

      Delete
    4. Heh, Dave walked right into that one.

      You guys have both, no doubt, pulled far too many Gs. Effects the brain ya know.

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    5. Me? Think hard?

      You obviously have me confused with a 2nd Lt.

      Delete
  7. I don't get the "just in time" approach, either. I'm always somewhere between slightly and waaaay early when it comes to airports and medical appointments. Hell, anything and everything where there's an appointed time, actually. Just as an aside... we don't "do" traffic here on The High Plains o' New Mexico.

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    1. Which begs the question, how many traffic lights in Portales?

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    2. Four, of which only three are working at the moment.

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    3. Four?

      That is a small town.

      Very nice.

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  8. Driving on the Autobahn was a revelation for me. You sure learn lane discipline. I compare it to a high speed choreography. In CA people pick whatever lane they want and drive as fast (or slow) as they want. But this stop and go stuff drives me nuts. Go as in 60-70 and sudden stops. Then looking in your rear view mirror hoping the driver behind you is with the plan. I prefer surface streets when it is like that.

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  9. Sooooo now that the Missus is gone...party at Sarge's?

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    1. Every night.

      Though the cats are having trouble keeping up with me.

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    2. I would have thought it was the other way around. ;-)

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    3. Somedays it is. Of course, they sleep all day when I'm at work.

      Then again, neither cat has any time in WESTPAC. I do. Just sayin'...

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  10. Your wife left at 10AM and didn't get there til 2:30AM? What happened?

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    1. Couple of three hour layovers will do that.

      Painful? Yes. Cheaper ticket? Also yes.

      Delete
  11. Worked better than my last drill at TF Green... Flight cancelled, no seats until noon the next day... Had to take a train home!

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    1. Yeah, that sucks. We've come close twice but somehow managed to get on a later (but same day) flight.

      Only with the assistance of good folks behind the counter though. Get a dud, you're screwed.

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  12. I see that others asked my question (which is also usually my question when caught in a similar mess to the one you found yourself in) and that is, "What caused this?" It doesn't get you there any faster, but knowing the why of the situation does tend to keep the blood pressure down, at least for me.

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    1. That's all I really wanted Suldog. An answer as to why it was backed up. It wasn't normal traffic. But no mentions of accidents or construction.

      That calms me down too. You don't go any faster but knowing the why does help.

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  13. This has been an interesting discussion and leads me to believe I may have a brief post sometime in the near future.
    That is, if I can organize my thoughts.

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    1. As always, I look forward to your take on matters of this nature.

      Organizing the thoughts, aye there's the rub!

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)