Thursday, November 13, 2014

La Parguera--My Special Happy Place

The evening rush hour traffic had piled up as expected along Highway 378 making all the slowly moving cars look like a giant segmented toy mindlessly inching towards some pre-programmed destination. Another way of thinking about it had the cars as individual cancer cells spreading out from Columbia to form tumors outside the city people liked to call suburbs. Either way there was irony in the idea that nearly everyone of those privileged individuals, all moving slower than a snail's pace, had at sometime rejected the idea of city living so they could escape its congestion and crowds.

Making this twice daily game even more fun, along both sides of the already overburden highway, feeding in from side streets and roadside businesses, were even more people inside their cars waiting for a chance to join the lemming-like procession. As long as these suburban road warriors made right-hand turns merging onto Highway 378 going with the flow or made left-hand turns at intersections controlled by traffic signals everything was as preachy keen as anything can be in twenty-first century America.

Unfortunately no, given the unthinking nature of most Americans that assumption was so unrealistic as to border on fantasy. See last Tuesday I was tasked by my lovely wife with several errands that forced me into the insanity that is afternoon rush hour. Like a good browbeaten husband married long enough to know that as long as the wife is placated I will be left relatively alone I accepted my fate and endeavored to complete the required tasks as quickly as possible. The details are unimportant but that evening I found myself not only surprised at the simplicity of the errands she gave me but that traffic was uncharacteristically light. As many might be able to guess the proverbial light I saw along my journey through the dark tunnel was that of a massive, high-speed train.

What happened was that in the space of fifteen minutes Highway 378 was engulfed in a tsunami of motor vehicles with me caught up in the collective urgency of everyone trying to be the first home. Still though, traffic was going relatively well up until I reached a strip mall that sat on the corner of a major intersection.

This strip mall is pretty typical of all the others that sit along America's highways consisting of about twelve segments providing locations for such businesses as a nail salon, eye clinic, Chinese restaurant, and a couple of insurance places. Its parking lot has three access points with one connected to 378 and two others leading out to the road that runs perpendicular. Now throw in what appears to have been a suburban mom driving one of those tank-like SUV's attempting to cut across rush hour traffic to make a left-hand turn onto 378, not from the traffic light, but from the strip mall parking lot and you have the makings of a comedy or apocalyptic movie. Since this suburbanite was also talking on a cell phone as she used her behemoth to forcibly interjected herself into traffic I saw nothing humorous in her actions from my vantage point about five or six cars back.

While the lady driving the SUV was able to wedge herself into the right lane of traffic no one in the left lane would stop to allow her to cross over to the median running down the middle of the highway. As you can imagine this created a major impediment to the flow of traffic with the SUV driving suburbanite actually becoming so irate that she began blowing her horn and flashing her lights as if she was the one being wronged. Personally I just wanted to get home before I missed my nightly hour of Big Bang Theory reruns and had lady suburbanite just gone through the traffic light this whole event could have been avoided.

After about ten minutes lady suburbanite gets really stupid and ends up hitting one of the cars in the left lane when it refused to let her through. When the deputy sheriff showed up that was when I settled in for a much longer wait and decided to go to my happy place.

Last April my wife and I were lucky enough to accompany our daughter, and most of the kids in her Spanish Language Immersion class on a trip to the island of Puerto Rico. While only a four day trip it was an incredible experience, allowing us all a taste of the island's culture and history along with meeting a truly remarkable people. While intended as a learning experience for the kids it was easily the best vacation of my life.

Since my return to the land of the free and home of the brave I have found that during times of stress I mentally return to that Caribbean jewel, with the village of La Parguera being especially idyllic to me. It is either that or have my blood pressure jump fifty points as I fight the urge to rip out the throats of the wonderful people I find myself living among.

It also helps to have some music as well.


Pixel Peeper said...

Oh...I can relate! Traffic on Sunset Boulevard was horrible even seven years ago when I still lived there. And I know how much more built up it is now. It was utter frustration when a traffic light in the middle of Lexington was out of whack and would back up traffic all the way into West Columbia.

I should have had your "happy place music" back then! Especially liked the music from the second video - reminds me of Ottmar Liebert (which I do have on my playlist).

Pearl said...

LOVE the pictures.

And also: rush hour is the very reason I gave up my car almost 10 years ago and have taken the bus ever since. :-) So little stress on the bus!


Jimmy said...

I think the horns should be completely removed from all vehicles, because the ones usually blowing them are doing so prematurely or like in your situation, it's good to have a happy place, at least until the horns start blowing.

Commander Zaius said...

PixeL: Cool!!! I've got several songs by Ottmar on my MP3. Stumbled across him and Armik a couple of weeks back when I was in my Puerto Rico funk.

Pearl: I actually wish Columbia, SC had a mass transit system, I get tired of driving.

Jimmy: If you get the chance definitely head down to La Parguera, its a wonderful place.