Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Why I've been so quiet.

Did you ever have one of those days that isn’t technically a bad day, yet it is. It’s not bad in that anyone I know died or was hurt. Yet it was bad because you where annoyed and stressed out the whole damn day. Well I had that day yesterday. When I woke up, I knew it was going to be bad and it just slid down hill from there. I have days like this from time to time. They make me want to quit my job, move to the wilderness and live in a shack in the woods.

I woke up yesterday morning in a pool of sweat. I think the over night temperature got down to a low of 69 degrees. I know my southern readers are thinking, “That’s not hot!” Keep in mind, I’m the guy who wants to move north to avoid temperatures over 70 degrees! I like to sleep all bundled up in blankets and I cannot do that at 69 degrees. I was uncomfortable causing me to loss sleep.

I had to get up early yesterday for work, I needed to be to the office by 6:00 AM. I started getting everything ready when I realized that the clothes I wanted to wear were not washed. So I wore a different shirt, tie and pants. Not a big deal, but the original outfit I wanted to wear was a much more comfortable outfit, and cooler.

Information I needed for the day was in my briefcase. I hadn’t touched it in a couple of weeks, but I thought I had set it next to the coat tree in my house. No, it wasn’t there. I woke my wife up to see if she knew where it was, of course she did not. We searched the house and could not find it. I have no idea where it was at, and I still haven’t found it. After spending 30 minutes on the search, I gave up because I would be late. I figured I could make do with out the information in there; I’ll just borrow someone else’s if I needed to.

I was driving into Chicago, to the corporate headquarters right off Grant Park. On Monday, I tried to grab the keys to one of the corporate car; however the Admin Assistant that is in control was busy and told me to come back later. I forgot to go back and pick up the keys. Not a problem I have 24-hour access to the building, all I need to do is get there, go in and grab the keys. As I’m leaving the house, I realize that the key I need is in my briefcase, where I won’t lose it! Okay… Maybe the coworker I’m going in with has the keys.

I get to work, my coworker, SD, is waiting for me because I’m late. I ask her if she by chance picked up the keys. She said she didn’t, but pointed out that I have 24-hour access. I just kind of laughed and explained the whole situation. We hoped that maybe security was there already so we can get in that way. Lucky us! Security was there. We get into the building, go to the Admin Assistant’s desk and…. The keys are not there. I go check my desk to see if she delivered them. Nope, not there either. We ask security if they know where the key is. They advised it is in one of the drawers. I talked security into unlocking the desks and cabinets so we can search for them. Security was nice enough to help us. We searched for the keys through all the drawers we could find, and were unable to locate them. After a few phone calls and we were able to locate the keys. We are now 30 minutes behind schedule.
We jump onto 90 and head into Chicago. Our class doesn’t start until 9:00 am, the office is exactly 82.7 miles. We left Rockford at 6:30. Now all of you that are not familiar with Chicago are thinking, not a problem. Those of you that are familiar with Chicago and this commute are thinking, “He’s screwed.” I get to Elgin, about 40 miles into the trip, and I hit bumper-to-bumper stand still traffic. Was it an accident? No. Was it road construction? No way. Was it stupid people trying to get to their destination faster by weaving in and out of lanes causing other drivers to hit their brakes to not cause an accident? YEP! All those damn Illinois driver clogging up the interstate. There was no reason on a 4-lane highway to have that much traffic other then improper merging and lane changing. For the remainder of the trip I never got over 35 MPH. We arrived at corporate HQ around 9:15.

I had sent in security requests a couple of days earlier so there wouldn’t be a problem with me getting in or out of the building. My ID badge works to open the door to the parking garage; however once I was in the building I had a problem getting through doors. I had to go all the way to the front security desk to have them activate my badge. Apparently, when I sent my request whoever worked it only gave me access to the garage. The security supervisor on duty wasn’t sure why they would do that as it doesn’t do any good to be able to park a car if you can’t get into the building.

The class I was taking was for Microsoft Access. It was the advanced level class I needed in order to be qualified to use Access in the manner I’ve been using it for 7 months now. I taught myself most of what we went over, but I needed this class in order to be able to say I’m an “Access Expert” on my reviews and evaluations. What amused me was the fact that the teacher spent all this time with other students and when she was busy, she’d have me assist the others on project time. While she was talking, I would be doing the assignments. I pretty much knew what I was doing. I did learn some new tricks and had a couple of the questions I had answered. Overall, I’m glad I took the class.

The Teacher did not let us out of class until a little after 4:00… rush hour. Did I mention I hate driving in Chicago? No, well not only do I hate it, I loathe it, despise it and execration the thought every time I have to do it.

When I pulled out of the parking garage there was almost no traffic. I was able to get out easily enough and make my way down the strip. I then worked my way out of the city with minimal problems. It was at this point I knew I was doomed. When it was time to get onto the express lane, there were cars backed up for miles. I got into line and slowly made my way to the front. The vacuous and impertinent Chicago drivers, especially cabbies, would zip along the line and try to force themselves in toward the front. I witnessed 13 near accidents. Many people where opting for the regular highway instead of the express lane at this point. I decided to hold to my original decision. Once I was on the express lane, I found out why the traffic was so bad. There was some Lexus broken down blocking one of the lanes. Everyone was trying to get around it.

This led to my question of the day, “In gridlock, does honking your horn really help anything?”

It took me about 30 minutes from the time I entered the line until I was around the stalled out Lexus. Once I was past it, I was able to cruise at 65 MPH… until the next entrance about 5 miles down. At that point, all the cars on the regular highway that were creeping along at about 30 mph decided they would take the express lane. This caused a major clog of the express lane. I was now traveling at about 25 mph.

This went on until we where past O’Hare airport, then the traffic sped up. We were cruising along at 70 mph. I was sure we’d be home by 6:30. That was when I saw the traffic advisory sign. It read: WARNING!!! Severe accident ahead at I-90 and County Lind Rd. (Mile 47). Expect delays! I talked with SD about getting off and taking 20 the rest of the way into Rockford. The problem with 20 is that it’s a two-lane road and there are stoplights. We decided to wait until we came to that junction to make the decision. When we arrived at 20, there was a long line of cars backed up to get off the highway. However, the road ahead looked clear. There was only 10 miles between the exit and the accident. It had been 20 minutes since we had seen the sign, we figured if the traffic was that bad we’d be able to see it backed up by now. We decided to go on.

We did fine for the next five miles. Then we arrived at the Marengo toll plaza, which is where we hit the backed up traffic. We had just gone through the booth when we were ground to a halt. When I mean just through, I mean that if the gate had closed, it would have slammed onto the trunk of the car. For the next 45 minutes, we didn’t move 60 feet. I was tired, hot, hungry, thirsty, had to use the bathroom, irritated and just generally ticked off. SD was also thirsty and hungry. She wanted a cigarette bad. Corporate does not allow people to smoke in the vehicles. She was going to get out, but the toll way workers kept telling everyone to get back in their vehicles. We decided to turn around and head back to 20. I found out this morning that I had a co-worker about a mile up the line waiting as well, she couldn’t turn around and had to wait it out. The traffic didn’t start moving again until about 7:00 PM.

I put the brand new (Less then 3 months old) Pontiac Grand Prix into gear. A grin crossed my face and a dangerous gleam in my eye I started the car moving. Friends that have driven with me know this look, especially if they rode with me in my old Pontiac Phoenix. Life was about to get interesting. You wouldn’t think that I would be able to get up enough speed to go through the ditch and do a u-turn into oncoming traffic with out causing another accident. Well you’d be wrong. Since traffic was slowing down for the tollbooth anyways, I just waited for a big enough gap and made my move. With smoke, dust and stone flying, I pulled onto the oncoming lane. No accident, SD was a little pale from the experience and a bit white knuckled. Things just got worse for her.

We exited onto 20; there was some congestion, but not bad. I was stuck behind this Semi that kept fluctuating between 50 and 60 mph. I decided to pass. Now 20 is a single lane road that has curves and small hills on it, that makes passing really difficult. I kept checking the on coming traffic and waited for a passing zone. I saw an opening coming up. I rapidly started to accelerate. SD wasn’t sure what was going on, only that we were heading towards the rear end of a semi rapidly. As soon as the on coming car cleared the semi, I powered swerved into the oncoming lane, the engine gunned. That little Pontiac screamed into life as I cleared the semi and passed 100 mph. As soon as I cleared the truck I had to power swerve back into my lane, or I would have been in a head-on collision with an on coming car.

SD had managed to disappear almost completely into her seat. The blood had drained from her face, her eyes squeezed tightly shut, one hand had a death grip on the “oh crap” handle and the other clinching the seatbelt that crossed her chest. I asked her if she was okay, she didn’t say anything or open her eyes for 5 minutes. I checked her pulse at one point to make sure she was still alive. She finally said, “I don’t think I want to go to the next class with you.” I laughed.

We hit more traffic at the stop light in Marengo, it took us 45 minutes to get through that due to all the diverted traffic from the highway. We made it back to Rockford just after 8:00PM. We went to fuel up the car before returning it, the corporate gas card didn’t want to work at first, but I managed to make it work. I think my promising to use it to scrape the sweat from my hair arse did the trick. I ran it through the reader at the pump and everything worked. By the time, I arrived back at my house it was 8:30. I had meant to get the air conditioner running yesterday when I got home from work, which didn’t happen due to my late arrival home. Therefore, I ended up lying in a hot bed in 81-degree heat trying to sleep. It was a long night.