6 AM, the hues of the morning sun beginning to peek over the horizon as I drove my little Subaru east along the on ramp to I-88. Until I reach I-88, the little stretch through town is quiet and peaceful, with very little traffic besides myself. It is only until the merge onto the tollway that the madness begins.
“Here we go again!” I sigh as I settle in behind a slow moving bakery delivery truck, hemmed in by an anxious commuter in a large SUV who is travelling at the same rate of speed as the truck I am following, a train of dazed drivers in the vehicles, all hopelessly looking for an opportunity to move into the passing lane. The gaps in traffic are rare even at 6 AM, the passing lane a risky gamble, the aggressiveness of drivers in the passing lane creating havoc as they whiz along at 90 mph. I live out in the far western suburbs of Chicago, so in a few miles most of the cars heading into the city will be slowed to a snail’s pace. It’s difficult to summon any amount of sympathy for the ruthless hellions in the passing lane, though. No one should be in that much of a hurry. They are going to work, after all. Why hurry to work?
In a few short miles, I head south on the 355 tollway, where the traffic is just as dense, but there is usually a respite after I-55. Going south is heading away from the city, so I don’t have as much company. I-55 is another east-west vein, so much of the traffic exits from 355 onto the ominous Lego like ramps that snake off and to the tollway. When I first started driving the tollway, those ramps scared the living daylights out of me. Now they are mundane.
What almost never fails to happen is getting stuck in the passing lane behind someone driving ten miles under the speed limit. I curse out loud when that happens, immediately conscious of my sin due to the Christian music I tend to favor during my commute. The music is my attempt to keep my focus calm and in the right place. Commuting the tollway is a daunting challenge even to someone who tries to keep a Christlike attitude. I fail enough as it is, and I am constantly thankful for God’s grace and forgiveness as I curse my fellow man or woman when behind the wheel of my Subaru.
My commute is 37 miles one way. I am thankful for the pandemic for one reason only — I am only required to make the trip to the office one day a week. There is a rumor that will change soon. Hopefully, it’s only a rumor, but even when my company lifts the one day a week in the office rule, I still will only have to come to the office 50 percent of the time. Commuting the tollways can be expensive, as it is $6 in tolls a day on top of gas and car maintenance. The month of November has cost more, as I experienced one of the hazards of tollway use — my IPass transponder pooped out, something I didn’t know until I noticed my toll account balance was extremely low. Tolls suddenly were being charged at twice the normal rate. Yikes. Until I get a chance to mail my transponder back to the tollway authority for an exchange, either I pay the double rate or I don’t use the tollway. Not using the tollway means about another 90 minutes of total commute time. Yuck!
Four years to retirement.