There had been warning signs for weeks, but I never thought they would actually do it. I couldn’t fathom how they could actually do it. It seemed so ludicrous. So absurd. So I wasn’t prepared when it happened.
It was a Wednesday morning. I picked up my coworker Amanda, and we set off on our morning commute to work. There was bumper to bumper traffic and delays half an hour longer than usual. That’s when I remembered those signs.
“Hwy 004 ramp westbound to the 104: One lane closed April to December for construction.”
That first morning we were 15 minutes late.
After that, it was tough to get the timing right. We were suburban. We were already used to a long commute into the city. We were used to regular traffic and a 20km mostly highway ride turning into a two hour fiasco. We always allotted those two hours for our commute when the ramp had both lanes in tact. But this lane closure business was madness of unprecedented proportions.
The second morning we left 30 minutes earlier than usual and arrived right on time.
On the Friday of that week, we arrived an hour and a half before our first classes. We forgot that everyone else in the city apparently takes Fridays off. We had a sleepy breakfast at a local diner before going to work.
The following Monday, we arrived right on time for our classes.
On the Tuesday, as soon as we hit the highway, we knew something was wrong. The traffic was all the way back to entrance, a good 10km north of the notorious ramp. Via a quick Twitter search, Amanda discovered that a 16 wheeler truck had rolled over immediately following the ramp. All lanes closed. Google maps recorded all the small streets in the Shire York neighbourhood surrounding us were jam packed because of the accident not that we could even exit the highway if we’d wanted to. We spent 2 and a half hours on the highway that morning. We missed our first two classes.
The following day our commute went back to normal. We were on time.
On the Thursday, I texted Amanda that I was outside her house, as per our usual morning routine. A few minutes passed, but she didn’t respond. Five minutes later, I gave her a call. She was still asleep! Her body hadn’t fully adjusted to our earlier departure time. She was ready in a flash. We still called our manager Percy to give him a heads up that we might be late, but we ended up arriving right on time.
The Friday was a PD day, which meant we had no classes to teach, just a meeting that started later than our first classes. We miscalculated the reduced Friday traffic in combination with the ramp traffic and the half hour later traffic. We were fifteen minutes late for our staff meeting.
The following Monday, Amanda entered my car with news. She’d heard on the radio that there was another accident on the ramp to the 104. We called Percy to warn him, but we ended up arriving 10 minutes early.
On the Tuesday, we were twenty minutes early.
The Wednesday morning, we were an hour and a half early.
On the Thursday, the commute was going fine, we were making great time. Then I hit what I thought was a pothole. Actually, it felt like the mother of all potholes. My car started shaking, and the steering wheel became impossible to control. In a panic, I swerved off the highway onto the shoulder lane, just a few feet away from the ramp. We had a flat tire. The shoulder was too reduced due to the construction for us to even attempt to change the tire ourselves. We fought off tow trucks waiting for CAA to come tow us away. It was a harrowing morning. We missed our first two classes that morning.
On the Friday, we were comfortably on time for work.
The next Monday, Amanda overslept again. I cut through the residential neighborhood, interpreting the road signs subjectively. But we were still ten minutes late.
That was the last straw. I knew it even before I saw my manager Percy waiting outside of my last class for the day. Luckily, Percy was the most patient and understanding man on Earth.
“You’ve been late a lot lately,” Percy delicately pointed out. I did some fast math. We were late five times in three weeks, with two false alarms. Damn. He asked gently, “you’ve never been late before. Has anything changed?”
Well, a lot of things had changed. For starters, I’d moved twenty minutes closer to the school without changing the time I left for work in the morning. In addition, I had started carpooling with Amanda just over a month back. I got the impression that Percy expected me to blame her. But it wasn’t her fault.
“It’s the ramp,” I heard myself say. “The ramp from the 104 to the 004 is under construction, and it’s really messing with our mornings. It’s the ramp.”
The second time I said it, I tried harder to make it sound true, but I felt like the boy who cried wolf. Or Bart Simpson blaming the school’s arson on The Butterfly. But it was true! It was the ramp!
Percy looked at me quizzically. Nothing I had said made sense to him. He was an urban commuter. He took the subway to work. He probably didn’t even own a car. He didn’t travel within 10km of the 104. He didn’t leave 2 and a half hours early to get to work. He had no idea what we dealt with every morning. He didn’t know that the Discovery Channel was developing a reality television show about drivers’ plights on the disastrous 104! He didn’t know about the ramp. Without experiencing it every morning, he couldn’t know. But it was all irrelevant.
“I’m sorry,” I hung my head. “We’ll leave earlier. We’ll experiment with different routes.”
It was the best I could do. A commuter’s life is never easy. We’d just have to leave 3 hours early. Eat more diner breakfasts by the school. And hope that the construction on that stupid ramp would be finished soon.