Monday, June 21, 2010

Construction Kryptonite

That Superman sure was lucky. I've often wished that I could fly, particularly when stuck in traffic. How nice it would be to don the cape, leave my car in the middle of the chaos, and just fly to wherever I needed to be. What a delicious thought. We who live in the Greater Toronto Area know that commuting sucks. Traffic congests the highways and local roads in the most inhuman way. Road rage runs rampant, as people are late for work and miss appointments. Blood pressures rise with the stress of having to be somewhere and being helplessly at a standstill. In the winter, we're slowed by the snowy, icy road conditions. In the summer, we in Toronto have to deal year after year with months of construction delays. I am a seasoned commuter, who travelled regularly from Hamilton to Toronto for work for many years, so I am used to the daily grind and delays. I wasn’t prepared, however, for just how bad traffic has been this year.

I certainly needed a Superman cape one recent Sunday afternoon. I was on my way to Niagara-on-the-Lake with my sweetie to spend the day and see An ideal Husband, a Shaw Festival play. We had tickets to a 2:00 show on a Sunday afternoon. We left in plenty of time that morning, and thought we would have time for lunch and even a quick stroll around Niagara-on-the-Lake before the play started. Our drive started out well enough, but as we hit Oakville, we knew we were in trouble. “Traffic always backs up around the Ford plant,” we tried to reassure ourselves. “Once we get past the Ford plant, everything will be fine.” It wasn’t fine. We sat and inched our way to the next highway exit at turtle speed, clock ticking, and our plans for the day slipping through our fingers. Brake lights shone as far as the eye could see. We finally made it to the next exit, and decided to get off the highway and take an alternate route. I looked ahead at the miles and miles of cars still on the QEW, certain that if we had stayed on the highway, there was no hope of seeing the play. The culprit? Construction.

“Damn construction,” we sighed as we saw the orange Construction sign, and shook our heads in resignation that we were fighting a force greater than ourselves. “We can still make it if the rest of the drive is OK,” I said as I exited the highway, hopeful that the alternate route would at least be moving. We were doing great on the alternate route, and even the QEW Niagara bound was moving.

“We’re going to make it!” I exclaimed at one point—that is, until we hit St. Catharines. More brake lights and another construction sign. “Expect delays” one sign read. “Delays at the border 2 hours,” another sign said. Hope of seeing the play started to fade and our hearts sank as we saw no end in sight to this mess of traffic. Where was Superman when you needed him? Determined not to give up, we finally took a recommended Detour, but it quickly became apparent that there was no way we would make it to this play on time. We had fought the good fight, and had lost. Defeated, exhausted, nerves frazzled, and a little worse for wear from the whole experience, we called the Shaw Festival box office, which kindly sympathized with our plight, and agreed to give us a gift certificate to see a play another time. Whew! We breathed a sigh of relief that at least we hadn’t wasted all that money.

We finally arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake, only to find that there didn’t seem to be one parking spot in the entire town. Our blood pressures started to rise again as we drove around and around, down every street, through every parking lot. Finally, after 50 minutes, we found a spot. We could finally relax. We made the most of what was left of the day, and had a nice time in Niagara-on-the-Lake—minus seeing the play and the four hours of our lives we won’t get back.

The next day, I was hit with a startling realization: construction has taken over my life. Not only have I had to deal with numerous construction projects at home (window replacements, parking garage, hallway renovations, just to name a few) and on the roads, which has also recently caused me to be late for dinners and other occasions, but now it was even causing me to completely miss events that we had paid good money to see!

We were happy to be able to have another chance to see An Ideal Husband, but did we really want to go through this horrible experience again? We are thinking about returning to Niagara-on-the-lake in September, and aren’t even going to attempt to see a 2:00 show. We are planning to see an 8:00pm show, and plan to leave Toronto at noon, if not the day before. Certainly, that would be enough time to fight the traffic and arrive in time ... or would it? Stay tuned. Now if only Superman could work his magic this coming weekend for the traffic chaos of the G20 Summit...

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