Friday, February 3, 2012

Bridge Closure Opens Floodgate of Emotions

They say there are stages of grief, starting with denial and ending in acceptance. That describes my commute since the Sherman Minton Bridge closed.

For starters, I begrudgingly get up an hour earlier than normal. I start to feel sorry for myself, until I remember that my wife is already on the road. Having changed my outlook, the commute starts with optimism. I’m feeling upbeat, listening to some of my favorite songs from the classic rock station and thinking that perhaps today might be the day that I finally make it over the Kennedy Bridge without a glitch.

On most days, muscle memory takes over and I start to merge onto I-64 West out of habit, forgetting it’s the road to nowhere. When I remember, I get mad at my elected leaders and their lack of foresight. But there’s no time to dwell on it. After all, I’ve got miles to go and the music is playing and today just might be the day.

However, optimism quickly fades to fatalism as I merge onto I-65 and see nothing but brake lights ahead. Within a few miles, I slow from stop and go to stop and stay. I pick the wrong lane as usual. People are moving past me on both sides. I should move to the right lane, but I know it ends ahead. The other drivers know this, too, but they forge ahead anyway, counting on the kindness of strangers to let them in. If they are counting on me, they are out of luck. No way in hell I’ll let them those rebels in.

I’m getting bored so I switch to satellite radio and tune in Howard Stern. He says something outrageous. The King of all Media entertains me, but also raises my blood pressure. Forget courtesy. I’m getting in that right lane. Someone will let me back in. I move to the right, gain a few spots, find a sucker and wedge back into traffic.

Now, I’m feeling guilty. I shouldn’t have broken with civility. Maybe I shouldn’t be listening to Stern either. Just then, something jams my signal. I can’t hear Stern anymore. I fear I’m missing something. As I contemplate this, my attention is diverted by broken lane dividers that have been knocked down by motorists more desperate than me. I wonder what kind of people would do that. Sure, I might have darted between lanes and listened to some bawdy radio, but I’m not that kind of scofflaw … at least not today.

Finally, after 45 stressful minutes, I exit the bridge. The traffic starts to thin. I’m breathing again. My teeth are unclenched. If there isn’t an accident ahead, the worst is behind me. In one commute, I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions: self-pity, optimism, anger, fatalism, boredom, agitation, and fear and loathing in Louisville. In the process, I’ve transformed from a righteous rule follower to a ruthless rule breaker.

When it’s finally over, a commute that should have taken no more than 35 minutes lasts for an hour or even two. I’m decompressing at work when a dark thought hits me like a rush hour fender bender: I have to do it all again tonight.