when one hour turns into three

oh, the irony.

on the very day that i posted about how my november goal was “no complaining,” God decided to give me a test.

i had a fabulous day in toronto on wednesday – it started with a quick ‘n’ easy drive into the city, and the positive vibe continued through the day. the weather was gorgeously warm for november, bright and sunny. little e and cutie c were absolute gems during my time with them. a highlight was our evening craft time together – we got into an in-depth discussion about vacuum cleaners (!?!) which was reflected in our masterful drawings and artistic projects. the creative juices were flowing fast and furious for all three of us!

i left the brother and sil ana‘s just after 7:30 p.m., and – would wonders never cease! – the gardiner was lightly trafficked, and i sailed out of toronto in near-record time for a weeknight.

now, normally, the first thing i do is check out the every-ten-minute traffic report on 680 news, as i drive out. i like to have a heads-up on any possible delay. well, because the gardiner departure was sooo easy, i bypassed this routine as i was confident i’d be home in very good time.


things were fine as i progressed on my journey – no slowdowns in mississauga, even! score! then, just west of mississauga – boom. red tail lights gleamed as far up the road as i could see.

oh, brother. well, no prob, i thought. it’ll be a short delay – it’s likely construction.

i got a little concerned when more minutes had passed and i had hardly moved.

i turned on the traffic report, and my heart sank: just west of milton (i had not even hit milton yet, and it has three exits off the 401, just to give you some idea of the distance) there was a diesel spill, and traffic – THREE lanes worth – was limited to getting by on the left shoulder of the road.

i slumped in my seat. this was going to be a long haul.

it would be so, sooooo easy to write a negative rant, here (thus far, i think i have stuck mainly to setting up my story, and to reporting just the facts, ma’am. i hope you agree).

so, in the 2.5 hours that remained of my trip home, i had ample time to reframe this frustrating experience into a focus on positives. here’s my list:

~ i considered all the cars and trucks, big and small, surrounding me. literally, there were thousands of us facing the same circumstances. i looked INTO the cars to see the drivers, the passengers, their faces. each one of us wishes we were somewhere else, i thought. i am no more or less important than any of these other people. we all are feeling the inconvenience, stress, and frustration.

~ i was so glad this delay happened on my ride HOME and not TO toronto as a loss of time of this magnitude would have severely impacted my transport duties with little e. missing my rendez-vous times with her would have really freaked me out.

~ there was no rain to deal with – the roads were clear and it was a mild evening.

~ i had my blackberry with me so i could communicate (and vent!) to share that i would be MUCH later than anticipated. and i also read blogs, gotta be honest! (seriously, it was totally inch forward, sit for several minutes, creep forward again).

~ i was delayed because of the gas spill, NOT because i was personally involved in an accident. the rav was fine, i was fine, once i got through the back-up, there would be no further issues to deal with, or repercussions.

~ i gave thanks that i had stayed on the 401 and had not ventured off on the detour suggested on 680 news (although by the time i heard the traffic report i had already passed the suggested exit). just after i passed the diesel spill, i could see the sideroad that many travelers had opted to take, and it was backed up just as badly as the highway.

~ i gave thanks for the workers and emergency crews out there, doing their best to clean things up. and at least traffic was moving. think of the delay if the road had been completely blocked!

~ i had a 3/4 tank full of gas and an empty bladder.

so there you have it. yes, it was not a pleasant experience. and yes, i thought about how this could qualify as a new experience (“take three hours to drive home from toronto”). but i don’t want to “waste” a new experience on this (in the grand scheme of things) minor inconvenience.

what’s the biggest traffic delay you’ve suffered through? (we’ll focus on ground transportation today and leave air travel to another time!) usually, my TO commute is 1h15, at the most. the next time it’s 1.5-2 hours is going to be a pittance after this week’s slog!


november thankfulness:

(for thursday november 3): yesterday i was thankful that the giraffes are complete!

what a *zoo* they were to knit!

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  • Gina Unger  On November 7, 2011 at 11:31 am

    what a wonderful list of positives to counter the negative thoughts that could have taken over your mind on your way home! (yes, I am only now catching up on your blogs!)
    a few years ago i was in a 401 traffic jam so bad that hudson and i missed our plane flight back to winnipeg! fortunately things all turned out well in the end. (it helps to start bawling in front of the toronto travel agents!)

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Oh, that would be the WORST! A delay with a little one with you!! You poor thing! I would def have freaked out over missing my flight!!
      I will remember to turn on the waterworks if I am ever pulled over by a cop!! :)

  • Zo  On November 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Your resolve is definitely being tested, Cathy! New Jersey is pretty congested as it is, so I’ce had what should be a 20-30 minute commute turn into 1.5-2 hours, especially during or after bad weather. Really not fun if the bladder starts making itself known! But it’s good you could see the “positives.”

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm

      i am surprised i did not see cars pulled over as someone…made a trip to the bushes! i can imagine you get quite the traffic issues where you are – and the bad weather!

  • Stephanie  On November 4, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Living in Toronto killed a lot of my empathy. One day, I was driving home when I heard on the radio that a pedestrian had been struck. My first awful thought was “I hope that didn’t happen on the way to my house”. The first thing I thought about was whether or not it would impact me. When I realized that, I was really dismayed with myself. It’s hard to remember the people in the cars, when all you see are cars and cars and more cars. I’m so glad that you took a minute to look at the drivers and to empathize with them. I’m going to take a lesson from you! (Luckily, I live in a smaller town now, and my empathy has come back, stronger than ever!)

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      thanks for sharing that story, stephanie – i think we can all relate to having felt like that, at some time. yes! the benefit of a small town – no traffic jams! you have a wide range of places you have lived!

  • Dorry  On November 4, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I was JUST talking to my mom about traffic earlier. She was coming to meet me and got stuck for a good 30 minutes in standstill traffic. It’s always frustrating, but we can choose to have a good outlook like you did! :)

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      oh, your poor mom. well, traffic snarls are pretty all over the u.s. and canada, aren’t they! and a standstill is just terrible – at least when you’re moving, it’s progress in the right direction!

  • Megan - Best of Fates  On November 4, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Now that’s quite a test – great job passing and seeing the good side!

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 11:16 am

      thanks, megan! i hope that since i “passed my test” i never have that experience again! :)

  • Lisa  On November 4, 2011 at 11:07 am

    The giraffes are cute!
    Your car ride reminds me of one I had a little over a year ago…I went to toronto with a friend (a 3hr drive), and our way back at 7pm on a Sunday, the wait at the border was 3 hours… my friend almost had a heart attack over it, but I actually took the same approach as you did—used it as a time to reflect on things positively and just relaxed!

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 11:18 am

      oh man, that would be another very boring wait!! i am trying to think: what is better – if you knew ahead of time that your delay would be x hours, or to not know…i’m still undecided! good for you for staying calm at customs!

  • Johanna B  On November 4, 2011 at 10:53 am

    The giraffies are so cute.

    I hate traffic jams. I always carry reading material in my car so that if I get stuck at least I’m not bored. Great way to work through the powerlessness of the situation. You did good!

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 10:55 am

      oh, thanks, johanna! i really had to focus on not letting the situation get the best of me. i’m not a patient person and this was a true test! good idea to carry reading material. i should toss a book in my glove compartment!

  • Holly  On November 4, 2011 at 9:28 am

    First off — the giraffes look great! So cute.

    And you have such a good attitude Cathy — I get so frustrated when I get stuck in traffic. You’re so right — everyone around you wanted to get out of there too, but what can you do?

    The biggest traffic delay was when Jason and I drove to Chicago a few weeks ago — it took us over 2 hours to drive less than 20 miles. There was no accident, etc — that is “normal” traffic for that area and we had no clue. It was frustrating but at the same time it wasn’t a big deal. We were together, we had enough gas, food/water and empty bladders :)

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

      thanks, holly! yes – a major delay really reinforces the necessity to always leave home with gas in the fuel tank and after a bathroom stop! :) the one thing i did NOT have on wed eve was water – learned my lesson! and what a groaner, your chicago experience. toronto traffic is THE WORST in north america so i completely understand the frustration of being slowed down simply due to volume! at least you had jason to chat with – that is good!

  • The Orchard  On November 4, 2011 at 7:28 am

    In the Okanagan between Summerland and Kelowna much of the highway used to be just two lanes due to the fact that there are mountains on one side and a steep drop to a lake on the other side. There used to be lots of delays along that road due to bad car accidents (usually people trying to pass on a blind corner). It was awful.

    The day after my wedding we were heading from Summerland to Kelowna and got stuck in a long line of traffic. Jeff and I were both fighting colds and I was pretty irate that we had to wait. When we finally inched by what turned out to be a bad accident, I was horrified to see a shoe on the road, infant car seat, toys etc. I had a sick feeling in my stomach the rest of the day and felt ashamed for complaining when it turned out the accident was really bad. I don’t remember all of the details, but I know that someone died that day. That totally changed the way I think when I am stuck in traffic. You never know the cause of the traffic back-up!

    I am glad in your case that no one was injured or died!

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

      thanks for sharing your story, tricia. wow – what a terrible accident that was. we went out west when i was a teen and i remember those highways!

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