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. Β 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. Β 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.

2015

21 thoughts on “The Ramp

  1. This does sound like a dreadful way to get to work. As a cyclist, I don’t have this sort of problems. Haven’t even had a flat tire for years, but if there is something wrong with my bike I can just take the train (which is sometimes late, but seldom more than ten or twenty minutes).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Less than a year after this chaos, I moved to an apartment a 15 minute walk from my work. Walking to work has been one of the most relaxing experiences. The premium I pay for location absolutely makes up for the peace of mind of not having to drive into the city every morning.

      Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

      Liked by 4 people

    1. I don’t want to live anywhere with traffic! But it seems unavoidable. This hwy I describe in this post is arguably one of the busiest in the world.

      Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

      Like

  2. People commute from the country towns to Houston here in Texas and there is a major construction projection on the main highway. It’s a nightmare. Did they ever finish your ramp project ?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! One glorious morning, we found ourselves flying down the highway. When we got to the ramp we saw that it had been completed about a month early! Now THAT was a good morning!

      Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve had some years as a commuter, and some years where I lived quite close to work; in fact, for six years the distance was less than a mile, so I biked to work unless it was raining. The commutes I’ve had haven’t been difficult, though. Currently I live in a suburb, but work is in the next county headed away from the major urban area, so my commute is a four lane rural highway where typically traffic only slows down for a minute or two when a truck is trying to pass another truck. And if things get too bad because of an accident or something, there are other rural roads that would go around it. I’m supposed to be there at 7:30 by contract, but my job (I’ve told you what I do, haven’t I?) doesn’t actually start until 8:00. I usually leave home around 6:50-7:00, and it takes about 30 minutes to get there.

    But I also cross two rivers between here and work. There are not many bridges over the rivers, particularly the river closer to home because it goes through some environmentally sensitive wetland areas. So there is a six mile stretch where if a traffic problem happens there (or backs up all the way to there), it’s almost impossible to find an alternate route without going a very long way around. That happened one time; things were at a standstill all the way across the river because of a bad accident. I’m much better than most people at directions and maps and stuff like that (see my “September-October 1994, New friends in Building C” post, that pretty much really happened), so as soon as I could turn off and start moving at a normal pace again, I did. But as I said, the only other way I could think of to get there was much longer and several miles out of the way. I called in and said I might be a little late, and they already knew about this because a few other people come from the same direction as me. Using my alternate route, I got there at 7:57, and I was pretty proud of myself that I made it there before 8:00. Apparently someone else with a very similar commute to mine left earlier than I did and didn’t make it there on time. I win. Boom.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, good job!

      That all reminds me of when I lived even further north and had the same kind of commute through country roads and across rivers. Part of the fun there is exactly as you’ve described, a lot of quick decision making and short cuts. Feels pretty good to find a good route.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Alexis! You’ve got some totally cool stories on your awesome blog.
    Do you mind checking out my blog too? I’d love to have such a wonderful writer on-board.
    Also, I’d love to hear your suggestions about my work.
    πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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