For the last few months, it seems that every drive around town is cluttered with construction. It doesn’t help that I live near the bridge replacement project on Old King’s Highway North, which requires me to make a U-turn at least three times a week after I mindlessly turn out of my road forgetting that my path is blocked.
Although they have set up a relatively easy detour on and off of I-95 that doesn’t even require a merge with highway traffic, it still feels like a hassle when you have to go east before you can go west.
It only adds a few minutes to our trip, but that is significant when you are running late, like I always seem to be. I put a note on my dashboard that says “Turn Right” so I’ll remember which way to go to avoid the construction zone, but it seems I am as bad as my kids at following my directions (or even reading my notes). Today, I actually stopped in the middle of the road, backed up, and started again. That’s progress, I guess.
I work and do much of my shopping in Norwalk, and travel has been impeded there as well. The main strip of Route 1 has been littered with traffic cones and police cars and blinking lights and construction workers all summer. I mean, the closeup view of the underground around it has completely squelched my enthusiasm for Popeye’s opening. I’m not sure even Chick-fil-a is worth the months of merging three lanes into one.
This stretch of Route One is now in the lengthy paving stage, and the raised manhole covers, half-done, split-level roads, and unlined expanses make every trip to work feel like a death trap, an obstacle course, or some exasperating game of Frogger.
I-95 has always been bad, and now it is terrible. For over 10 years, my husband commuted to Long Island for work and every night was a crap shoot as to what time he would get home. It could take anywhere from one to three hours on an average night, never mind if there was a storm or a serious accident. The majority of the time the problem was the 10 miles from Greenwich to home, not the 40 miles in New York with bridges, tolls, and the LIE.
But at least during rush hour times, you expect the nightmare. When you have a choice, you try to plan around it, but construction is the great equalizer between rush hour and off-hours. It’s especially frustrating when you try to stretch a vacation weekend until late Sunday night, thinking you’ll miss the southbound traffic, and end up hitting three construction zones from Milford to Darien that turn an hour-long trip into a three-hour ride.
Add in some whining, overtired children and it makes a boring weekend at home sound just fine. My wanderlust is gone.
It’s no secret that we parents drive these roads a lot. While not ever a “mindless task”, we do develop habits in our driving that become second nature, just like habits in other aspects of our lives. All day long, our minds race with the tasks that make up our mental load. Driving a familiar route may be one time when our mind gets to take a little break.
We are focused enough on the task to see the signals, other cars, pedestrians and such, but we function at a lower level than when navigating a new route. (Really, it’s scientifically proven that different parts of the brain are used for new versus habitual tasks.) This is why sometimes you’ll realize you are home but you don’t actually remember taking the last few turns. You may, however, remember singing along to your favorite song, or having a chat with a passenger because it was new (and fun).
Navigating all this construction is making the daily drive another JOB. So much to watch out for, so much planning, so much more “thinking” to be done.
The thing is, it’s September. My whole life is “under construction” right now as we adjust to the new school year, new classes, new activities, new expectations. I already have to make last minute panic rides to Walmart for school supplies, or a run to school to attend welcoming coffees, drop off forgotten lunches or gym shoes, or a take-out run between this activity and that open house. When the unexpected construction zones impede my progress, the dominoes start to fall.
I already have enough detours in my life. I can take a few more speed bumps, but then I am looking forward to a smooth ride.
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.