When we lived in Boston, traffic was life. It was like getting up in the morning. It was getting to work, the grocery, the doctor. Anything and you always had to calculate how much “extra” time you needed to deal with traffic.
Traffic was always bad, but sometimes, it was lethal. These days, I don’t think about traffic because we don’t have much. We don’t commute. If we need to drive, we schedule it for when there is likely to be little or no traffic. Locally, a traffic jam is a tractor with two cars waiting at an intersection.
Or road repairs.
Until we moved here, traffic was a primary issue in our lives. It controlled our working days and holidays. Gridlock before and during holidays could effectively close the city. I once tried to pick Garry up from Channel 7 which was less than a mile from home. Normally, he walked, but he had things to carry and so he asked me to come and get him.
I left the parking lot, drove a block, and had to stop. Nothing was moving. An hour later, I was in the same place. I finally made a U-turn and went back to the apartment. The next day “GRIDLOCK” was the headline. The entire city had been stuck because it was the Friday before Christmas.
Then came the Big Dig.
The Central Artery-Tunnel Project, called The Big Dig, was a monstrous project involving rerouting and redesigning virtually every road in, out, around, and through Boston. If you lived in the city, there were no areas unaffected by it. It was supposed to solve the city’s traffic disaster. Ultimately, it made it easier to get to the airport, but the rest of it? It’s still a permanent jam that will never go away.
The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in history. To absolutely no one’s surprise, it was plagued by cost overruns, scheduling disasters, water leakage, collapses of ceilings and other parts of roads and tunnels, impressive design flaws, blatantly poor workmanship, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, substandard materials, criminal arrests for a some of the aforementioned offenses (but not nearly enough), and four deaths.
The project was supposed to be finished by 1998 and cost $2.8 billion. I am sure no one in Boston expected it to cost that or be finished on schedule — and we were right. It took an additional nine years and was finally finished in December 2007 It cost more than $14.6 billion. The Boston Globe estimates when all is said and done, including interest and fines, lawsuits and so on, the project will total more than $22 billion and won’t be paid off until sometime in 2038. Or later.
The Big Dig forced us out of Boston. One day, I had to go grocery shopping. The supermarket was a mile away. It took me two hours to get there and another hour and a half to get home.
“Garry,” I said that evening, “Let’s get out of here!”
We fled. Traffic had overtaken over our world. Nothing was fun. We couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie. We couldn’t shop, park, or get to or from work and should we get where we were going, there was nowhere to park. People trying to visit couldn’t find our us because the exit to our neighborhood kept moving and was often closed. Out-of-towners roamed helplessly through Dorchester, looking in vain for a street sign.
Sometimes we couldn’t find our way home.
We must have spent years of our lives sitting in traffic.
We live in cities because that’s where the jobs are. You don’t find jobs with a future in small towns in the country. With all the telecommuting talk, most jobs still require you to be there. Most jobs require live interaction with colleagues and customers.
We underestimate how badly the wear and tear of commuting affect our lives and psyche. If it takes hours to get to work, you are already tired when you get there. Public transportation often takes even longer than a car and is a lot less comfortable.
Work is easy. Traffic is a killer.
What’s your go-to for unwinding after a stressful event or day? Can be someone or something – music, pets, family or whatever you choose.
Sofa, dogs, and dinner plus something funny to watch on television while trying not to do anything at all for at last an hour.
The plane you’re flying in is going to crash, no survivors. If you had one song you could listen to before it happens, what would it be? (credit to NewEpicAuthor for this one). Please share the link to the song if you can.
No comment. I don’t do life-ending stuff. Too close for comfort with way too many people around us who have life-ending cancer and other diseases.
What is one thing you’re really, really good at and not ashamed to admit it? I worded that deliberately because aren’t we taught to be humble and not pushy about our achievements? Celebrate your ability!
I write well. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to be really good at.
Would you rather lose all of your money and valuables or all of the pictures you have ever taken?
I have no money to lose. We have no money.
What were you grateful for or something that made you smile during the past month?
We got some really nice photographs in two different locations. Both rivers and dams because that’s what we have around here. It’s very gray and kind of dark today, so rain is looking likely.
Autumn is considering arriving but so far, only has one foot in the door. I think during the next week, it’s going to pop. My cameras are ready!
I grow flowers. I don’t do it in any organized way, but somehow, they grow. I grow things in pots — inside and outside. I have a wild rose and daylily garden that suddenly has become a huge rhododendron garden and we have the biggest holly bush I’ve seen.
I’ve got some very old lilacs, a few very young lilacs, astilbe and goat’s beard, a few random daffodils, and crocus. There used to be others, but they didn’t survive. At one point, I had an amazing display of hollyhocks, but one year, they withered and died and I don’t have any idea why.
Learning (or, in my case, trying to learn) another language was high entertainment.
In English, I rarely if ever used a word the wrong way. I was a serious reader very young and had a big passive vocabulary. By passive, I mean I knew a lot of words but had never used them in conversation. I knew what they meant and how to spell them, but not how they sounded.
I had no idea that Too-son and Tucson were one place. Or that ep-ee-TOME was epitome. I remember those two examples because of the hilarity they caused the adults in the area. I was all of 8, but adults were not all that nice to kids. They still aren’t, if I think about it.
I was even more entertaining in Israel. I am sure that my fumbling attempts to learn the language, having caused hysterical laughter, probably played a part in my never properly learning Hebrew. I was so embarrassed by my errors, it didn’t seem worth it, especially since everyone knew at least a little English.
My first big discovery — during my first week in the country — was that Zion (Zy-on) means penis. In Hebrew, it’s tzee-own. So if you say that Israel is the Land of Zion using your good American pronunciation, you will reduce Israelis within earshot to tears of laughter.
They can be a rough crowd.
To add another layer of problems over the difficulty in just getting the words out through my teeth which were clearly not designed for all those gutturals, many words in Hebrew are very much like one another, yet have hugely different meanings. Sha-ah is an hour. Shan-nah is a year. So there you are saying “My Hebrew isn’t all that good, I’ve only been here for two hours.”
After a while, I mostly spoke English and used Hebrew words as needed when I could find no English equivalent. Eventually, I got to a point where almost everyone could be expected to understand most of what I said. Without laughing at me. But not happily. My accent made their ears hurt.
You might consider this when you meet immigrants who are trying to learn English. I mention this only because, having been on the other side of this experience, a bit of kindness to people trying to work through a difficult life transition while learning a new language and culture can go a long way to make them feel less lonely, threatened, excluded, and generally miserable.
Just a thought.
Is contrasting hardware when your pots or cutlery doesn’t match? Or you are wearing orange plaid pants and a polka dot shirt? Where no matter what you buy, it is inevitably the wrong color, but it’s too expensive to throw it away and it works, so you might as well use it?
Our house is mismatched in every way and I have long since given up trying to make anything coördinate with anything else. If it’s at least something of the same style, more or less, that will have to do.
The tech stuff. Computers. Tablets.
Garry has an iPad and I have a mini iPad (for which I have yet to find any use). We both have Alienware computers. I have a Mac Air in the bedroom, as well as a Kindle. There are two more Kindles in the living room, not to mention a TV, speakers, and something sort of like a stereo system.
On a more personal level, Garry and I contrast nicely. Two out of three dogs are quite perfectly matched and none of them uses any hardware.
I have no idea why I’m writing this. It’s just a heap of words. There’s so much going on in the world and this has nothing to do with any of it.
Meanwhile, Garry doesn’t feel well, though I’m the one with the doctor’s appointment. I think we are both suffering from the fierce embrace of the killer weeds of autumn. Garry thinks “he’s got something.” If he does, you can be sure I will have it too in a few days. That’s one of the really nifty things about living together all the time. We share. Everything. Always.
So now I’ve been prompted and I have no idea why except I figured I should write something and I had nothing to say. Or, more to the point, everything on my mind requires actual research and thought and planning and I just don’t have the time to do that today.
Some nights, you can’t win.
We’ve been so tired, that finally, we decided to go to bed early. For us, which means before midnight. Maybe just a little after it. I think I was out cold by 12:30 which for me, is definitely early.
It turned out, the temperature had dropped a lot — like 40 degrees — from where it was when we went to bed. I had wrapped both arms around my pillow under my head, so they were numb. AND I was sleeping with one leg half off the bed so the knee had twisted into a pretty strange position and wow, did it hurt!
I had to lift the leg back into bed, which was hard because both arms were asleep. I also needed to find a warmer nightgown, close the bathroom window, and take something. Like maybe the tranquilizer I usually take before going to sleep so I don’t just fall asleep, but actually stay asleep.
It took me an hour to get it sorted out.
Position the body to keep all limbs on the mattress with the rest of me. Do not put the arms doubled up under the pillow. Put on something warmer than a summer sleep tee and find a pair of socks. Close the window. Take a few Tylenol. Listen to a chapter of an audiobook.
I proved that you don’t need to be sick to make yourself really miserable. All you have to do is dangle parts of you off the mattress while locking other under your body. And let yourself chill down to heart-slowing levels.
Who knew a dangling leg could hurt that much?
I’m working at keeping all of me in the bed. A couple of weeks ago, I fell out of bed. I have a habit of sleeping at the edge of the bed. I started doing it when I was really sick and it extremely difficult to get myself sitting up and moving. If I slept along the edge of the mattress, it was easier to move. Now, though, I seem to be having trouble keeping track of all my limbs –and keeping them sensibly organized.
According to Harvey the weather guru, it’s going back into the 80s (about 27 for you Celsius folks) with extremely high humidity tomorrow. Not to worry because it will drop down to the 50s (10 Celsius) the next day, then back to the 80s by the weekend. Or maybe not. It’s New England. We have chaotic weather.
I’m not ready to turn the heat on. It’s too early in the year, especially with oil prices so much higher. It’s just September. Winter has been lasting through April and last year it was cold through the first half of May.
I try not to turn the heat on until the end of October or early November. This means lots of sweaters and warm socks until finally, I’m sufficiently miserable to up the thermostat. We need an extra tank of oil at the end of April last year which cost us more than $300 and emptied out all the money we’d been saving for exactly that kind of event. It also meant that when we needed to get the boiler tuned and repaired in July, we had no money in the account — and that was another $300.
In the middle of May 2018, it was cold. Cold enough for snow to fall and stick to the ground. I didn’t mind the snow — it wasn’t heavy enough to be inconvenient — but I minded that extra tank of oil.
This year, I’ve got a plan. Instead of telling people we are too poor to pay the higher oil prices (thanks, Donzo Drumpf!), I’m telling everyone we aren’t turning on the heat until all the people in Lawrence and Andover who got blown up a couple of weeks ago get their heat turned on.
A political statement is less pathetic. Also, with a little luck, we’ll make it through winter without having to dig even deeper into our lack of money to pay for more oil. You never know. Winter might not be too bad.