The Five Stages of Holiday Traffic Grief: Driving on the Mass Pike

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Whewwwwwwwwwwwwww! We all survived Round 1 of the holidays. I had a pretty interesting one, my sister and brother in law became very ill Monday evening, and so Tuesday I “whipped” down to CT to help them out with my 8-month old nephew (as you will soon see, I am using the term “whipped” loosely). Unfortunately for me, just about everyone else in New England had the same idea (we were due for a Nor’easter with lots of snow and ice on Wednesday) and a usually ~2.5 hour trip took 5 hours and 52 minutes. Yep, I was basically sitting in the Marshmallow Mobile on the Mass Pike in standstill traffic. For several hours. Barely inching forward. During those six hours, I had plenty of time to go through the five stages of holiday traffic grief.

Stage One: Denial and Isolation.

When my car first coasted up the line of stopped cars I thought, “Well there must be an accident somewhere. This should ease up soon.” I tapped my fingers on my steering wheel to the throwback station 96.9 and mentally relived the amazing hip-hop songs of my formative years. I looked at the clock. Six minutes had passed by and no movement. “Ah, maybe the police are blocking off a lane and we can’t move.” I looked at the Waze app. It was red (indicating heavy traffic) until I-84. I was barely outside of Boston. “That can’t be right…” I thought. Nope, nope – it was. I was just hiding from the facts, a reaction that carried me through the first wave of my painful drive in gridlock.

Stage Two: Anger.

I could NOT be stuck in this traffic when my sister and bro-in-law needed me! NO way, no how. I was not ready for this. The Masshole driving behavior we all know and love here in the Boston area began to make an appearance. Waze re-routed me off of the Mass Pike. I shifted over to the far right lane, and was stuck behind Mr. Cool wearing a suit in front of me. He was twiddling around on his phone, not paying attention and leaving huge gaps in between his very expensive car and the car in front of him. This allowed just about everyone to shift into the far right lane and move forward, while we sat unmoving behind them. “Really, dude?” I said aloud, to no one. I honked my horn once. No response. Still twiddling. “Helllllooooooooooo!!!” I shouted, still to no one. I looked left, and I looked right. There was no escape. Except there was the hard shoulder…I could see the exit. I threw caution to the wind and swerved around him, I honked (to ensure he would look up) and gave him the thumbs down sign as I passed by him. “DUDE, PAY ATTENTION!!” I yelled, gesturing wildly from behind my closed window (dude, it was cold out) and made several illegal maneuvers to get the hell outta there.

Stage Three: Bargaining.

As I swerved off the exit to the “short-cut” I was going to take, I mentally kicked myself. If only I had left sooner! I should have just LEFT early, as soon as I found out what rough shape they were in. I totally would have avoided this nightmare. There are grocery stores in CT, I didn’t NEED to stop and get ginger ale and broth on my way home, I could have waited. I should have just left without packing anything, my sister has clothes I can wear. If only, if only, if only…

Stage Four: Depression.

As I passed through the toll booth at the end of the exit. I stopped short. What?? What are all these cars doing here?? Do they all have the Waze app too? Maybe there is just some back-up getting onto the short-cut highway. After not moving and waiting through several rounds of lights, I finally turned onto the short-cut route and was immediately stopped behind another car. Gridlock traffic extended as far as the eye could see. Nooooooooooooooo, seriously?! This can’t be happening! It’s going to take forever!! I was already about three hours in at this point and still had 100 miles to go. A deep, dark, misty gloom hung over my head for the entire (first) hour I inched along the short-cut route.

Stage Five: Acceptance.

After a while, I realized that I could do absolutely nothing about this traffic and I just needed to buck up and get over it. I was still crawling along the short-cut route, and winding under the Mass Pike several times (which was still gridlock as well). I pulled off the road and stopped at Wendy’s to stretch my legs. Sigh. I just need to deal. Deep breaths (in, out, in, out). There is no turning back now. Only moving forward.

I finally made it, at around 8 pm. Once I saw my sister’s face, I knew that the nightmarish traffic was worth it – to put it mildly, she was not looking good. Sometimes, especially during the holidays, you just have to suck it up and do the not-so-fun, but extremely important thing – be there for those you love. We all got through it, and now it will be a funny story to look back on for years to come (uh, we are not at the point where it is funny yet, but relaying this to my mom over the phone during Stage 5 made her laugh pretty hard, so I thought I would share with all of you). Life is not always easy, pretty and tied up with a bow. Sometimes it blows big time, and there is gridlock traffic, and food poisoning, and road rage, and lots of swearing at inanimate objects in your car, but we get through it, we stick together and we help each other out through the bad parts. Then we can really enjoy the good ones when they come along. πŸ˜€

Happy Holidays folks!! It’s the first of December already, can you believe it?!



9 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Holiday Traffic Grief: Driving on the Mass Pike

  1. I am from the Chicago area–I feel your pain!!!

    Bad weather makes it worse too–one time during a blizzard, when a 45-minute trip became a 3.5-hour trip between two suburbs on opposite sides of the city, I forgot my cell phone and had to dig out an old phone card with leftover minutes to call my parents from a payphone just so they knew I wasn’t dead. Luckily I had enough gas, because apparently the only oasis on the expressway was completely out, and exiting for gas was a joke because the plows weren’t even to the side streets yet. And that entire trip was only 34 miles.

    I would seriously die of a stroke if I lived in L.A.


  2. Oh dude, I feel you with the Pike pain. I’ve been in that situation more times than I’d like to admit. Glad you eventually got through the mess and to your family!


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