Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Road Construction Ahead

In the northern half of the continent, there is phenomenon known as the "fifth season." There is summer, followed by fall, then winter and spring. That's four. But then there's the dreaded fifth season: road construction. At the height of the season, orange barrels, reduced speed zones, flashing marquees, cones galore, and restricted lanes offer ample opportunities to stretch the limits of one's patience.

It's interesting to observe how the rituals of road construction season are observed by some. For example, there is the "dance of the merge." This dance commences with the passing of the sign that proclaims a lane closure ahead. If the sign announces the left lane is closed then the alpha racer speeds forward in the left lane, cutting off fellow travelers who have dutifully lined up in the right lane. The dance is reversed if the right lane is closed.

Another ritual is the ever-popular "follow the leader." This game becomes more interesting when construction barriers tighten lane size, and traffic is narrowed into a single lane. The object of this competition seems to be to get as close to the person in front without actually touching them.

One situation not often seen is the "rolling barricade." This uncommon event happens when two semi-trucks ride side by side, forcing traffic into one lane producing the usual dance of the merge opportunities. Now the rolling barricade sometimes gives way to "shoulder rolling." This happens when a driver creates a new traffic lane by cruising the shoulder. Sometimes this move leads to an incident of "stopped by ambulance."

"Hide and seek" is a law enforcement twist added to some construction zones too. Here patrolmen lie in wait for those practicing "follow the leader" or the ever-popular and age-old "speeding game."

As a veteran of the fifth season, I've learned the smoothest way to navigate this periodic phase is to allow extra time, slow down and, above all, bring along lots of beefy snacks and CDs. Nothing removes the grating inconvenience of loony drivers or standstill traffic from road construction like an ample supply of beef jerky and some choice tunes.

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