Saturday, February 15, 2014

McDonald’s Or Wendy’s?

Those of you that know me, know that is not a question that I encounter in my daily life. Those of you that have yet to get to know me you know by my svelte build that is not a common query. But that question really isn’t the story, it is what was going on around me when that question was asked which is of interest. The fact that the question was even asked by a complete stranger adds a little color to my long Friday commute.

I started my morning right on time to make it to the office well before a 9:00 am call. Having had to work from home the day before, the day was going to be pretty hectic as I tried to make up for what was a less than optimal day of production. The roads weren’t too bad with only a few slightly slick spots here and there, the occasional rumble strip of snow and ice, and a sun glare that gradually got worse as the minutes went by. With the sun directly in my eyes about five miles from the office I increased the gap between me and the car in front of me and reduced my speed to about 40 miles per hour. And I am really glad I did.

Without any warning traffic came to a dead stop and I slammed on the brakes. As the antilock brakes pumped I could hear the crunching of cars ahead of me. Thankfully, I took the precautions I did and I safely came to rest about three feet from the car in front of me (the car behind me did the same). So we all sat there for the next five minutes with our cars still running and brake lights on.

It was only a few minutes later when the reports began filling the radio and we all knew that we were going to be there for a while. Like dominos, cars were put into park, engines were turned off, and we all settled down for a long delay. Thirty minutes to go before my call and I knew that I would be dialing in from the car so I sent a few text messages to the office, my family, and my wife letting them know that I was fine but that I wasn’t going to get to the office any time soon.

Before I knew it, it was time to dial into the conference call. Surprisingly enough, this may have been the first time that I have had to be on a conference call from the car. Having now done it once, I can say that I am not a big fan and I will continue doing my best to avoid it in the future. By the time I got off the phone we were all sitting in the same spot and we all knew the extent of the backup as opposing traffic had now ceased and emergency vehicles were driving back and forth assessing the damage and looking for anyone else who might need assistance.

By 11:00 am we were all walking around the highway chatting and getting to know other people who are now sharing a common inconvenient experience. After all, we all knew how much worse it could have been for us. We could have easily been the ones in the 100 car pileup just a half mile ahead. So, while we were all a bit grumpy (especially those of us who were without coffee) we were all, at least most of us, were just trying to make the best out of things.

Not long after that, the kindness of strangers began showing itself. What began with bottles of water being handed which was appreciated, soon gave way to a woman in the far right lane passing out cupcakes which would no longer be consumed at work and the aroma of coffee being replenished in travel mugs. Our new found calm only made the morning pass a bit faster and made us all just a little bit friendlier.

Around noon we all seemed to return to our cars. Not because of any anticipation of traffic beginning to free up it was a strange unified time when everyone decided to make phone calls. I guess another benefit to this whole dilemma besides forcing everyone to just stop and try and find the positive to the situation was the fact that we could catch up on some long overdue phone calls. While I wasn’t able to dial everyone, I did manage to catch up with a few people with whom I had not spoken to in some time.

It was during these phone calls when a man came walking down the highway, stopping at every car, and asking us if we wanted a cheeseburger. Not many of us passed up the kind offer which led to his next question, “Wendy’s or McDonald’s?” Not much difference between the two so I arbitrarily chose Wendy’s. 1:00 pm and lunch was served.

The next hour when quickly and before I knew it I was on another conference call. As we discussed the difficulties of my commute I could hear the wave of car engines turning on roll up the highway (the only exceptions beyond the accident scenes being those who ran out of gas or had dead batteries). As we slowly formed a single file line and slalomed back and forth across the lanes between accident scenes, I pointed my phone from atop the steering wheel and captured some random pictures of what had caused the delay which had all of us parked on the highway for the past 6 hours.

Around 2:30 pm, I arrived at the office and, contrary to what many people would think, I wasn’t really in a bad mood. Of course, my day was wasted and I have to make up some work this weekend but I was still in one piece and I was able to witness, first hand, how people come together when put in a situation that they really can’t change. However, I am now painfully aware that I need to stop by the store sometime soon and pick up some MRE’s to make these situations a bit easier. Might be worth adding a few other preps. You never know.