Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's Not Chicago Traffic

Anyone in a big city will tell you that traffic patterns run your life. You always try to avoid driving anywhere during rush hour. Any unusual weather -- rain, snow, wind, excessive heat -- adds time to your trip. Since I've lived in the Chicago area my entire life, my whole view of traffic is based upon what happens here. These are the rules I live by when driving.

This is how we ended up at the wedding last Friday 45 minutes before the ceremony. The GPS told us it would take 35 minutes to get from where we were staying to the ceremony/reception. Since we were driving during rush hour on a Friday before a holiday weekend, I added 10 minutes to the trip. It was also raining, so I thought it would add another 5 - 10 minutes to the trip.

Funny thing about traffic...it is entirely local. The Chicago rules don't apply in Florida. It turns out that in the Tampa Bay area where we were travelling, these things didn't really matter. The rain didn't slow down traffic much. I didn't see anything resembling a bumper-to-bumper rush hour.

All told, the trip took 5 minutes more than the GPS predicted. We had plenty of time to visit with the family, take the girls to the bathroom before the ceremony, watch the set-up, etc. It was also one more reason to remember that while on vacation, it is important to leave home behind and remember where you are.


Nicki said...

Yeah, Chicago is a weird place, kind of like another planet or something. But if it was me, I probably would have left super-early anyway, because I would have gotten lost 700 times, even with the GPS!!!!

Julie K said...

Traffic, times and direction are totally local. I used to travel quite a bit and I've lived in a couple different states. Growing up in Chicago (flat landscape and grid structure of roads that it is), we tend to give directions in terms of North-South-East-West. It's on the NW corner, for example. Out East, where the roads are older and wind more around hills and such... N-S-E-W don't mean much. I remember giving a repair man directions and told him to "head east on road X". The guy said which way will east be? I said "you'll be coming in the morning... the sun will be in your face" with a mental duh to myself. Another weird thing about Chicago is that when asked how far away someplace is, we natives answer in time (not in miles). It's typically easier to travel N-S than it is to travel E-W... so 20 min N-S can be a considerable distance (if you hit an expressway) while E-W can be a few blocks. Pittsburgh has world class traffic, but not exactly a world class city (mind you, I love Pittsburgh). The tunnels (or tubes, as some are called) are a natural bottleneck that haven't been widened in years (cost, of course, of an extra lane through a mountain). The bridges are also a challenge. If there's an accident on a bridge or in a tunnel... expect major delays.