Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Maybe I Need a Plan 'B' or Two?

An experience this morning brought me to the realization that I might need to rethink my morning commute procedure.

With the exception of Tuesdays, when I have to use an alternate route to pick up my daughters from their dance class, I use a bus line that has a stop that's two blocks from my house.

The stop is located on a busy thoroughfare, with six lanes of traffic. It sits about two thirds of a way between two traffic lighted intersections not more than half a mile apart.

Crossing this road is not easy, but the traffic is mostly northbound in the morning, making it easy to reach the median. The best time to cross the northbound lanes is after the south light has turned red, and the last of the green light traffic has gone by.

The stop itself is maybe 50 feet south of the entrance to an apartment complex. Between the complex and the east edge of the highway is a drainage ditch that spans 15 - 20 feet, and has a drop of maybe 10 feet. The slope is lined with stones to prevent erosion.

It has haunted the back of my mind, but to date had not played out, that this stuation would be very awkward in the event of heavy snowfall. The stop would be a spot where snow would be plowed, but I've mollified that concern by speculating that the bus would stop at the entrance of the complex in that situation.

This morning, we got just under two inches of snowfall. No big deal, I would have thought, so I made my way to the bus stop, giving myself extra time to make it across the snow covered side streets.

I made it to my stop with maybe seven minutes left to spare. I stand there, waiting patiently. The six lane highway was wet, but clear of snow. The cars that passed by didn't seem to be creating too much of a spray. I thought I would be OK.

A few minutes later, I saw it, making its way through the south intersection. It was something I hadn't taken into account with the light snowfall. It was almost a deer-in-headlights moment.

Now, those of you who got into experimental music in the late 80s may recall a group by the name of Negativland. They had one song titled "Car Bomb", so picture the intensity used when they shout that title at the end of a verse.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Negativland, think of the move A Bug's Life towards the end, when raindrops start falling on the colony.

Yep, the voice in my mind shrieked, "SNOW PLOW"!

I watched the behemoth as he started to make his way up the highway. He must have been scraping the edge, because he was kicking up quite a bit of material, and the arc of saline slush was reaching well past the point of where I stood a the stop.

So, I did a 180 and started booking it due north, trying my best to move as quickly as I could without losing my footing, for if I were to slip to the right, I'd be headed for the ditch. I made it to the apartment complex entrance and safety not more than two seconds before the plow passed by.

As I watched it go by, plow engaged and orange sparks floating sporadically from the asphalt, I noticed that he had moved to the center lane. I wasn't sure if he had done that as part of a plan, or whether he had seen me and moved out of the way as a courtesy.

I was grateful that I emerged from that moment sans slush and injury, but it made me think that I need to have a more concrete backup plan for boarding the bus in bad weather.

Two options have come to mind:

  1. Instead of risking life and limb crossing the six lanes, board the outbound bus and ride it as it makes its turn back into town. This isn't too unreasonable since the bus line terminates about two miles south of my stop. The bus runs by on the 55s and 25s of the hour, and would make its way past the other side about 15 minutes later.

  2. Drive to a major shopping center along the line and board from there. There is a stop not much more than a mile from my house at a huge shopping center, but it would trade off the morning lane crossing with an evening lane crossing in potentially busier conditions.

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