Wednesday, September 26 – Thursday, September 27

I knew I’d be sorry the next day

Wednesday was about as good a day as can be expected, given that my North Haven work location is a horrifying 125 miles away.  As I was driving there in the morning, much of the trip before dawn as usual, I was thinking to myself that traffic seemed lighter than what I normally encounter.  I made it to the Throgs Neck Bridge in 45 minutes and to North Haven in just over two hours.  During the day a co-worker mentioned that today was Yom Kippur.  Which, in turn, brings up an interesting point.  I don’t know how many people have the day off from work, but I wouldn’t imagine that it’s more than maybe 5%.  10% tops.  Yet that relatively small reduction makes a big difference in rush hour traffic volume.  It reminds me of the time several years ago, when I was working in Manhattan, that the taxi drivers staged a one-day strike.  Without the taxis on the road the streets seemed bizarrely empty, even though actual traffic volume was only about 20% lighter than normal for a workday.

In any event, my trip home from North Haven was another comparative breeze, clocking in at about 2:15.  The only slowdowns I encountered on the Long Island Expressway were just before Exit 38 and around Exit 57, and both of them were much less than usual.  There also was some heavy traffic for about a half-mile on the Cross Island Parkway, attributable – oddly enough – to two completely separate crashes about 500 feet apart.  Without them my return time would have been an amazing 2:05 or so.

My elation on Wednesday was slightly tempered by the fact that Thursday surely would be payback time.  As it most definitely was.  Morning traffic volumes were noticeably heavier than on Wednesday, though not bad enough to affect my travel time.  In the afternoon, unfortunately, things were bad.  Really bad.  It took me almost 45 minutes to cover the first 15 miles from North Haven, due to a crash on I-95 near Exit 40 in Orange.  Or so the message signs said, as by the time I got to the vicinity of the exit the crash had been cleared.  This delayed me enough that I ran into another stretch of very heavy traffic, this time strictly volume-related, around Stamford and Greenwich.

It was almost five when I got over the Throgs Neck Bridge, and I knew that Expressway traffic would be the dog … and I would be the hydrant.  As a result, I decided to implement the Panera Bread Strategy, getting off the (crawling) Cross Island at Northern Boulevard and making my way to the Panera at the Nassau-Queens line where Little Neck Parkway intersects with the Expressway.  I spent an hour or so going on Facebook with my phone and having a steak-and-blue cheese salad (highly recommended).  Stereotypes were in full play, as near me four Jewish ladies were playing Mah Jongg – a Chinese game that is largely a Jewish pastime in America – and at other tables young Asian people were doing math and science homework.  I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a Gypsy fortune teller.

During my stay at Panera, I was musing on the current paradox of both high unemployment and miserable rush hour traffic.  With so many people out of work there should, logically, be fewer cars on the road during rush hour.  As I noted with respect to Yom Kippur, a difference of just a few percentage points should be highly visible.  But then, as I neared the end of the salad, a possible explanation occurred to me.  Many employers give workers the option of telecommuting a day or two each week or even sometimes every day.  When the unemployment rate is high, however, people may be less willing to exercise this option because they fear that not being physically present in the office every single day might make them appear less than completely vital to their companies’ operations.  For similar reasons people may be letting vacation days go unused and are dragging themselves into work when sick.  I have no idea if there’s any way to prove this theory, but I really believe there’s something to it.

My stereotype observations and traffic theorizing complete, and my salad finished, I got back on the Expressway around six.  Traffic had lessened enough by this point that I made it home in just under 45 minutes.  Had I not stopped at Panera, and just dealt with peak traffic, I probably would have made it home somewhat earlier, but preserving what little remains of my sanity was more important than getting home at 6:30 instead of 6:45.

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Published in: on September 29, 2012 at 4:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, September 24 – Tuesday, September 25

Taking the ferry’s okay if I want to take it, but not when schmuckish behavior obliges me to take it

My three-week (or possibly longer) adventure in North Haven began quietly enough on Monday morning.  I had been dreading the 125-mile drive, but to my pleasant surprise I made it in just a bit over two hours.  And that was with some moderate rain in Connecticut.  Traffic flowed smoothly almost the entire way, with only the barest hints of a slowdown caused by a stretch of grooved pavement on I-95 just east of Stamford.   Speaking of which, did people say “groovy” pavement in the 1970’s?  Anyway, although driving through the rain was slightly annoying, I was treated to the sight of a rainbow over Sleeping Giant Park (where I’ve done some hiking in the past).  While the arc of the rainbow extended only about 20 degrees up from the horizon, it was the thickest rainbow I ever recall seeing.

After a busy but productive day, I took the ferry back home as planned, getting the 4:30 sailing out of Bridgeport.  It’s about a 20-minute drive from my workplace, and if I had had a reservation I might have been able to make the 3:30 sailing, but I figured that wouldn’t be  feasible and stopped at the Milford rest area for a grilled cheese.  “Cheese Boy” has a location in the food court and I must say its grilled cheeses are excellent.  The ferry was a pleasant ride as always, though it got a bit cold on the open top deck.  Not that I was about to sit in the enclosed cabin when I could take in the views from the top.

Tuesday morning was basically a rainbow-less repeat of Monday.  It took about as long, with no significant traffic.  When I left the worksite about 3, I was hoping for a decent drive home even though it would surely be longer than the morning’s trip.  What I was most definitely not counting upon was a huge traffic jam on I-95.  It took me over 40 minutes to go just a few miles from the I-91 merge to Exit 42 in West Haven.  What really got me angry was the fact that the traffic jam was caused by a crash … in the opposite direction.  Yep, people are such schmucks that they’ve just got to slow to a crawl and gape at a crash, granted it was a pretty wicked one.  I was seething was anger at this display of human idiocy, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get onto the Long Island Expressway until 5:15 or 5:20 at the earliest, which meant that traffic would be fearsome.

I ended up taking the 4:30 ferry once again.  Although I didn’t get to the ferry dock until about 4:20 I figured, correctly as it turned out, that ridership is a bit less on Tuesdays than on Mondays and there’d be room for my car.  Of course this meant that I had to shell out another $54.  Although I’ll be reimbursed, that’s not the point: I should not have to take the ferry because people are idiots.

Published in: on September 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, September 22 – Sunday, September 23

Count this as a Lost Weekend.  Two days on which I could have gone to the gym, and I didn’t go at all.  Granted, I had a reason, namely a painfully strained muscle in my side, but unfortunately the concept of “working through the pain” escaped me.  There is no excuse.

Published in: on September 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, September 19 – Friday, September 21

I am immeasurably happy to be done with White Plains

No joke.  The three weeks I have spent working in this location have felt more like three months, I’d say that’s Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in action but that’s not actually what it means.  The specific reasons why White Plains was so miserable are complicated, and in any event giving more detail would compromise the necessary confidentiality I must maintain, but suffice to say the workload was brutal.  Which is a pity, as White Plains wasn’t that long of a drive for me.

Now, speaking of long drives, on Monday I’ll be starting a 3- or 4-week assignment in North Haven, Connecticut.  Itwill be a very long drive, specifically about 125 miles each way.  While that sounds hideous, it’s only about ten miles longer than West Haven, where I spent most of July.  True, the extra ten miles could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, but I wouldn’t think so.  It’s all highway driving (I-95 to I-91), and while I’ll be going through the center of New Haven I won’t be going in peak direction.  New Haven is not so large a city as to create non-peak-direction traffic.

As for traffic going to and from White Plains, I have little to report.  Each of these three days was pretty routine.  About the only thing of note is that I took the Northern State Parkway on Thursday morning rather than the Long Island Expressway because an electronic sign reported that a lane on the Expressway was blocked at Exit 48 by a disabled truck.  I knew that the loss of a lane could really wreak havoc, fortunately this warning came before Exit 53 and I was able to make a quick getaway via the Sunken Meadow Parkway and then the Northern State.

Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, September 17 – Tuesday, September 18

It couldn’t just be the Jewish holiday, could it?

Monday was what I’ve come to consider a typical Monday on the roads.  Traffic on the Long Island Expressway got a bit sluggish in western Nassau County, in fact I was (very briefly) at a dead stop near Exit 39, and then the Cross Island Parkway was on the slow side as I headed toward the Throgs Neck Bridge.  Fortunately the bridge itself was okay, as was the Hutchinson River Parkway, and I made it to my White Plains work location in about 1:20.

When you’re headed Queens-bound on the Throgs Neck Bridge, a message sign just after the toll booths (with their obscene tolls) shows the driving time to Kennedy Airport using the Cross Island Parkway (“JFK via CIP”).  One thing I’ve noticed is that if the time is more than a few minutes in excess of the 17-minute minimum it means that traffic on the parkway is going to be very slow indeed.  Today, for example, the time was 24 minutes.  Considering that the airport is well after where I exit for the Long Island Expressway, the extra seven minutes shouldn’t make much difference for me, right?  Wrong.  I crawled all the way to my exit, it was at least 15 minutes longer than usual.  Some sign.  Fortunately the Expressway traffic wasn’t too bad, and my return trip was just under two hours.

Tuesday morning was a fairly normal trip, nothing in particular that I can remember, but the afternoon – well, that was something else again.  I left work later than usual, late enough that I wouldn’t make it onto the Expressway until well after four and would hit rush hour.  Indeed, a very long line exiting from the Throgs Neck Bridge made it look as if the trip home would be excruciating and led me to take the Clearview Expressway rather than the Cross Island. To my extreme surprise, traffic on the Long Island Expressway was way lighter than usual.  It moved just fine in all the usual trouble spots – approaching Exit 38, between exits 49 and 50, and around Exit 56.  Normally, I come to a dead stop at several times in those areas, today I never went slower than about 40 mph.  What in the world caused this freakish lack of traffic.  It’s the Jewish holiday, and I believe some schools are closed, but that alone wouldn’t account for it all.  Whatever the case, I’m happy.

Published in: on September 20, 2012 at 2:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, September 15 – Sunday, September 16

By late Saturday afternoon I had recovered enough from the exhausting workweek to make a trip to the gym.  It was a pretty good session, too.  Overhead presses: 8 x 100, 3 x 8 x 110.  Bench press: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 4 x 4 x 225, 6 x 185.  Skull crushers: 4 x 8 x 60 (EZ bar).  On Sunday, I returned to an old favorite, namely T-bar rows, doing 5 x 8 x 135.  I also did biceps curls, 4 x 8 x 70.  While I planned to add some shrugs and rear deltoid flies, a temporary but nasty muscle cramp in my left arm was enough for me to call it quits before doing them.

Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 12:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, September 12 – Friday, September 14

0-3 for the gym

Three more days, three more no-shows at the gym.  Work has been so intense and exhausting that by the time I get home I’m just too worn out for the gym to be anything but a very dismal proposition.  If there’s any hope on the horizon, it’s that next week should be much less hectic.  I certainly hope so.  Plan B is that even if work continues at its tough pace, I’ll just have to force myself to make at least some brief visits.  Stay tuned.

Not only has work been hectic, but driving has been no walk in the park, if I may be excused a mixed transportation metaphor.  Mornings have been no particular trouble.  Each day’s trip to the worksite has been around the 1:30 mark, though I’m somewhat surprised that eastbound Expressway traffic always seems to slow down approaching Exit 39.  It is not due to vehicles entering from the Northern State and Meadowbrook parkways, as the slowdown is always about a mile before the entrance ramp and clears up before I get to the ramp itself.

Afternoons have been worse.  Much, much worse.  Wednesday was the only relatively decent trip, a shade under two hours, with the worst spot being the Throgs Neck Bridge toll plaza.  I believe there was a disabled truck blocking at least one lane.  Thursday was much worse, the trip taking almost 2:30.  This time there were three, count them, three crashes that slowed traffic considerably.  The first of them, involving three vehicles, was on the ramp from the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Cross Island Parkway, with the second on the Parkway itself about a mile later.  The one that wrought the most havoc was on the Long Island Expressway, quite far east for that matter, between exits 59 and 60.  Unlike the first two it blocked no lanes, both vehicles being off to the side, but of course everyone had to slow way down to get a good long look.  Schmucks.

There also had been a rubbernecking delay on the Hutchinson River Parkway just south of the Bronx-Westchester line.  Both of the northbound lanes had been shut down, with cars diverted off at an earlier exit, and this of course slowed things up considerably in my southbound direction.  There were at least ten police cars in the closed northbound lanes, including what were obviously a few detective units.  I don’t know for sure what happened, but I suspect that someone (either in a vehicle or on the side of the road) had found himself on the business end of a gun.  Speaking of police cars, later on I saw a number of them, including several motorcycle units, leading a westbound motorcade on the Expressway in eastern Nassau.  It turned out to be Romney’s motorcade, he had flown into Islip Airport and was on his way to a fundraising dinner in Nassau.  No idea what was on the menu, but at $45K per person it had better have been spectacular.

Friday … well, all I can say it took me almost three hours to get home, which is beyond ridiculous for a 65-mile trip that’s almost entirely on limited access highways.  Unlike the previous day there were no obvious reasons for the glacial traffic, apparently it was all just volume.  Needless to say I was not in a bright cheerful mood when I finally made it home!

Published in: on September 16, 2012 at 4:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, September 10 – Tuesday, September 11

What am I going to do about the gym?

Two more days I didn’t go.  I don’t think it’s a lack of enthusiasm or motivation, though granted I’m not 100% sure on that point.  If I were really bursting with enthusiasm I’d probably still find a way to go, but unfortunately that’s not been happening.  Both days my work in White Plains has been exhausting, and it is likely to remain this way for the rest of the week.

Thankfully I didn’t encounter any significant traffic problems either day.  Monday morning it was a bit sluggish near the Nassau-Queens border, and both afternoons I ran into Expressway traffic in the usual spots, but I seem to have settled pretty much into the pattern of about 1:20 in the morning and 1:40 in the afternoon.  If work weren’t so completely hectic I’d have ample time – and, presumably, energy – for the gym, unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.  I’m just hoping that next week will be more sane.

Published in: on September 13, 2012 at 1:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, September 8 – Sunday, September 9

After a very tough week at work I’m still well short of the ideal energy levels for gym-going.  I went late on Saturday, not long before closing, and all I could manage was some mediocre bench pressing: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 6 x 225, 2 x 4 x 225, 6 x 185, 10 x 135.  Sunday I didn’t go at all, though it wasn’t a totally wasted day because it turned into a familywide clean-out-your-car day.  My mind still boggles at all the debris I got out of my car.

Published in: on September 12, 2012 at 1:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, September 5 – Friday, September 7

My guess was wrong

When I found about my work assignment in White Plains I figured it would be a welcome relief compared to some of the other ones I’ve done.  After all, it’s only 65 miles each way, quite a difference from Danbury (100 miles) and especially West Haven (115 excruciating miles).  A 65-mile drive to work is pretty much in the realm of normal commuting, albeit at the far margin.

I was right when it came to driving.  Each day’s drive was pretty uneventful, all around 1:20 in the morning and 1:40 in the afternoon.  Friday’s trip home had the potential for trouble when I ran into sluggish-to-the-point-of-stopped traffic on the Long Island Expressway, fortunately I was right near Exit 37 when I encountered the trouble and was able to get onto the Northern State Parkway pretty quickly.  And there were no delays at all in any of my six crossings of the Throgs Neck Bridge.  Just the (obscene) tolls, but that’s another story for another time.

What has made this week not easy, however, has been my actual work in White Plains.  To say that it’s been “hectic” would be an enormous understatement.  While Tuesday was normal enough, the rest of the week featured about ten days’ workload packed into three days.   By the time I get home I’m mentally and even physically drained to an extent I haven’t experienced in many years.  Next week should be a little less wild.  I sure hope so.

Gym: As you might imagine, I’ve barely had the energy to drag myself to the gym.  Which is a pity, as what with the shorter drives I’m getting home at reasonable times that leave ample opportunity for gym-going.  I only made it once, on Wednesday, and even then I didn’t do all I had wanted.  I got in some trap bar deadlifts, 6 x 4 x 245, and some Hammer Strength shrugs, 3 x 8 x 320.  My energy ran out before I could do any biceps work or rear deltoid flies.  What I’m hoping is that next week work will be easy enough that I’ll have energy for the gym.

Published in: on September 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment