I’ve spent most of my 40-plus year career as a Healthcare IT Professional driving to work. Traveling as far West from Massapequa as Roosevelt Island and East to Stony Brook, I’ve commuted in all directions on parkways and expressways.
To avoid the inevitable traffic, I experimented with secondary roads and shortcuts. Some worked out great, others less. But you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet, right?
Over the years (and miles), I’ve encountered hundreds of knucklehead drivers along the way, many of whom caused me to lash out verbally and with iconic hand signals. I’m not proud of these actions, but most daily commuters can understand my frustrations with fellow drivers.
My recent position at Northwell brought me to the Huntington Quadrangle in Melville, just south of the LIE, on route 110. The eight-mile commute from Massapequa still took me more than 20 minutes each way, thanks to traffic.
It didn’t take me long to experiment with shortcuts and local roads to use as alternate routes. As anyone who travels Route 110 will attest, traffic on this specific corridor can be a nightmare.
I uncovered side roads near SUNY Farmingdale and experimented with parking lots I could cut through to avoid waiting for turning lights. There were so many options that I rarely spent time on 110 at all.
Then the pandemic hit, and we all worked from home. For two years, the odometer on my car advanced as quickly as the clock on the wall.
Recently, we started to trickle back into the office a few times per month. Then in early February, it was all hands on deck as we needed to support a hospital that was going live on a new system.
Suddenly, it was back to five days a week in Melville.
Although returning to work in the office could have been a shock to the system (along with wearing clothes containing belts and zippers again), I comfortably settled into my trusty GMC Terrain and headed out on Monday. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get back in the saddle. It was such a pleasant experience that I didn’t contemplate any shortcuts or back roads.
I felt like a tourist on vacation, as 110 seemed unfamiliar. New businesses had sprung up, especially fast-food places. The proliferation of furniture stores always boggled my mind. Was this the only road in Suffolk County zoned for furniture showrooms? Soon, my familiar 110 landmarks appeared, like Republic Airport, SUNY Farmingdale, and Adventureland. Even Hooters was still in business.
Grooving to the music on my XM radio, I barely noticed the other drivers while enjoying the experience of driving with a purpose again. I returned home with a smile on my face. The next day was much of the same, just enjoying the experience, although I noticed (and easily tolerated) some traffic in front of me.
By Wednesday, I was no longer smiling. What was that shmuck in front of me doing in the left lane going so slow? Suddenly, I found myself switching lanes more frequently. Thursday, when the guy in front of me didn’t advance when the light turned green, I instinctively hit my horn out of frustration. With a sea of red lights in front of me on the way home, I turned off 110 and took one of my shortcuts.
By Friday, I was verbally shouting at the guy in the Honda who stopped at the yellow light before it turned red. I found myself cursing out loud when someone cut me off. By the time the week was over, I was an emotional wreck.
My goodness, what happened to me? All this pent-up vitriol came back so effortlessly it was frightening. I hated being this person again. I was just getting used to the new, more tolerant me that was enjoying life with my car again.
Good thing we are back to working from home. I’m not sure I’d want to run into me on the road.