Overlooking The Obvious
This is a view very similar to the one that I had this morning. I made the mistake of running an errand to the post office just to drop a letter in the mail. Yes, I know it is Memorial Day, and the post offices are closed, but our lobby is open 24 hours. The mail is not the point.
Yesterday I wrote about the true meaning of Memorial Day. And on my way back from the post office, I ran into a traffic jam much like the picture. The “parking lot” went about 3/4 of a mile. And being a single lane road, this meant I was going to be sitting in traffic a long time, unless…
This is not my first traffic jam that I have been in. And I have resolved that issue any number of ways, but if the end result has been spending the least amount of time in traffic, then I consider it a victory.
As I approached the stopped vehicles, I saw what I thought was the origin of the delays. A funeral home and garden was hosting a Memorial Day tribute/service. And you could see all the grave markers with the Red, White, and Blue flags. Of course there were makeshift trailers, tents to provide shade, and you could see lots of lawn chairs set out already for the ceremony. I was willing to come down from my “traffic jam stress out session” because this was something that I felt was appropriate and understanding.
But as I passed the funeral home, I immediately hit the next wave, not of water, but traffic. Ah yes, the “true” meaning of Memorial Day to so many, going to the beach and kicking off the Summer season. When I lived back north, I usually worked this holiday weekend, so I never made the trek to the “shore” on this weekend. The equivalent to traffic on Memorial Day weekend going to, and coming from the New Jersey shore points, was like going to the mall on Black Friday following Thanksgiving, just something that was never appealing to me.
On other weekends, I often spent hours, trying to travel just 14 miles on interstate 476 just to get to the Commodore Barry Bridge. From there, it would take just as long to travel the rest of the way to get to the beach resorts. But fortunately for me, I had two things in my favor today. I was not going to be waiting two hours, or even fifteen minutes just to move a quarter of a mile.
Being less than a mile away from my home, I was at a traffic signal. Immediately, a psychology lesson from college kicked in. My psyche professor taught that we often overlook obvious solutions to common problems, just because we do not think they make sense. This was the example he gave:
“You are in a left turn lane at traffic light. You are car number 15 in the line, and clearly you will not make the light for the next two signals. But the straight lane (and right turn) is moving briskly with as many as forty cars going through before the change of the signal to red. Why not go in the straight lane, and either turn right at the corner, and make a uturn, or go straight through the intersection, and turn left in another area and double back? Will you not save time?”
The answer is “yes.” It is so obvious. But in one of the rare moments we actually care about “waste”, many look at this maneuver as wasting gas. And perhaps it is wasting gas. But is not sitting in traffic idling also wasting gas. Psychologically, going the extra distance of making the extra turn just to turn left makes sense too, because at least we keep moving, providing the sense that we are at least getting somewhere.
And so, instead of going straight this morning back to my place, only a 1/2 mile away, which would have taken me 20 minutes to get through (beach traffic was being directed near the entrance of my building), I made a rare left turn, and drove six miles around the water inlets, to come back to the entrance of my building from the other direction. Ten minutes.
I consider this a win as opposed to sitting in traffic and letting that start my day in an aggravated mood.
In all seriousness, please remember what this day is all about, remembering our fallen heroes. And of course, as you celebrate the Summer months, have a safe time.