Saturday, February 16, 2008

Traffic Jam

Living in Los Angeles requires constant vigilance of traffic patterns. No hour of the day can be planned without taking traffic into account, unless one stays within a few blocks of home or travels on foot.
I was planning to attend a meeting of EEWC (see link: in Claremont starting at 4 pm, a drive that takes one hour on the 10 freeway on a Sunday morning or afternoon but two hours or more on a weekday afternoon if one leaves at 2 or 3 pm. At that time all the traffic is flowing east.
I planned on leaving at 2 pm, just in case, and visiting Mom from 1 pm to 2 pm before leaving. However, I didn't manage my morning activities well enough to get to Mom's residence by 1 pm.
At 2 pm I faced a choice: skip visiting Mom and make sure to be on time for the meeting at 4 pm, or visit Mom and trust that traffic on this Saturday afternoon would be about the same as on a Sunday: light.
Reason to skip the visit to Mom: yesterday I'd put six hours into her, so I could take today off.
Reason not to skip Mom: yesterday I'd been impatient with her about her refusal to take her meds, and she had cried. To make amends, I should visit her.
Guess which one I did.
When arrived, planning to spend just half an hour and leave at 2:45 pm, she was hysterical: "Thank goodness you came! I called you and told you I want to go to your house."
"We can go to my house, but we will go out and get some ice cream," I answered.
Then my favorite caregiver, Marnie, often in charge of the whole floor, told me she had been robbed at gunpoint two days earlier. I needed to listen to her story in all its frightening detail rather than rush out saying, "Later!"
Finally I took Mom out in the wheelchair to get a Nestle's Crunch and a banana. Then we returned and I left her in the dining area eating the treat.
"Bye--I'll see you tomorrow morning so we can go to church," I told her.
By now it was 3 pm, and I settled into the minivan for a pleasant hour-long drive with Prairie Home Companion on the radio and a Snapple iced tea to drink, travelling 70 mph. I was glad I had taken time for the visit.
But five minutes later traffic halted: there was an accident on the 10 freeway near the 5.
I decided to maneuver around it, taking the 110 to the 101 to the 10. Traffic flowed well for ten minutes but then it slowed to 30 mph and stayed there.
Frantically I switched to all the traffic reporting channels but no accident was happening ahead of me this time. I had to conclude the situation was normal--SNAFU.
For the next hour I maneuvered from the 10 to the 605 to the 210, hoping there'd be fewer cars and a speed of 60-70 mph, but it took me an hour and a half to get only as far as Azusa, still fifteen minutes away from Claremont.
I fumed and fretted: was this normal for a Saturday, as it is for weekdays? Or was the heavy traffic caused by the three-day weekend--people driving to Las Vegas or to Big Bear for skiing?
I was 45 minutes late to the meeting. An hour trip became an hour and three-quarters.
Now I really regretted having taken time to visit Mom. Once again, I had taken care of her by throwing my own commitments off.
But at least she knew I cared: I had not skipped a day.

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