My commute to and from work is very long, but so far I've had a great deal of luck avoiding the kind of unforeseen events that make it even longer. If I can do the drive in three hours or a little less that counts as Normal. On Thursday, in a series of events that would be considered comical had I not known for a fact that people died, the drive took ten minutes short of six. Six hours sitting in a car, mostly riding the brake, is enough to ruin anyone's day. Five hours into that you will find yourself quietly envying the dead.

First a major interstate was shut down and everyone forced off it (to continue an agonizing northbound crawl along the tiny rural roads of central Illinois). This easily set me back 90 minutes. Another major accident that necessitated landing a helicopter on the highway to remove victims (presumably) cost another hour. When yet another accident promised to add time to my stint on I-90, I exited to navigate my way home on Chicago side streets…only to find the major non-highway east-west road closed for maintenance. We were re-routed through, among much else, a cemetery.

At this point I began to wonder if it might not be best to stop, give the car keys to the first pedestrian in sight, and start a brand new life wherever I found myself.

Accordingly the vigor to write a proper NPF is missing. If you're in the mood for some environmental realism, check out these sad-funny pieces on Norilsk, Russia and Baotou, China, two cities dependent on the smelting of extremely toxic heavy metals for their economic existence. If anyone lives to 50 in those places, he or she should be whisked away and studied to learn their secret to immortality. Baotou is the source of 90% of rare earth elements upon which modern electronics rely, although interestingly they are not called "rare earth elements" because they are scarce. Most aren't.

It's not your typical NPF, but do you notice in the pics from those two cities there isn't a single living member of the plant kingdom? Not a tree, shrub, or blade of grass. Yeah. That's kind of jarring.

30 thoughts on “NPF: PLACEHOLDER”

  • You might've simply ended the narrative of your commute with "And this is why we need Donald Trump in the White House." A narrative of systemic failure so pervasive that it lead past frustration into madness–if that's the story of this election cycle, I don't know what is.

    Instead, reflect on the fact that A. semester's nearly over, so (presumably) that commute is off the table for a bit, and B. right now, at this moment, you're not in fucking Peoria.

  • Yes, rare earths aren't literally rare, only hard to get. The story of their discovery and how the (then) hamlet of Ytterby gave it's name to several chemical elemets could be NPF material for a less shitty day.

  • Well, to be fair, the Chinese city had a picture with a lot of grass, and the Russian pictures look as if they were all taken in winter. Post-apocalyptic landscape will probably be a forest instead of a Mordor style wasteland. Nature abhors a vacuum, the real problem is that we are much more fragile than dandelions, rats and spiders.

  • A few years back my wife and I were traveling from Columbus OH to Chicago in December. Normally a 5-6 hour drive.

    On that day Ohio was hit with a freak blizzard that dropped a ton of snow on the state. In 20-20 hindsight we should have stayed home.

    We hadn't gone an hour when we ran into stopped traffic on I-70 near Dayton. Had we sat there, it later turned out, we'd have been there for 8 hours (saw it on the news later).

    Fortunately we were by a turnaround, so I crossed over and backtracked Eastbound until I could get onto old US 40. Seemed like a good idea but US 40 was blocked a few miles up the road as well.

    Backtracked again through downtown Dayton and got onto old US 35 on which we worked our way to the Ohio border.

    It took 10 hours to get to Chicago, at least 4 of which were just getting out of Ohio. I could have done a commercial for Audi that day, because on a couple occasions my A6 went through snow up to the belly thanks to AWD and a good set of tires.

  • @Alex, I think it is always winter there. Stunning photos of desolation and human destruction. Ed, that makes where you live look marvelous!
    Those kinds of drives makes one long for self driving cars. You could have been online all that time…

    Great weekend to all.

  • Traffic in and around Boston is such that the first thing I do when I get in my car is to turn on waze. It doesn't matter that I know how to get where I'm going without help. The situational awareness I get from knowing how long my drive is going to take goes a long way towards reducing my frustration at traffic. The added bonus of maybe being told about a different route to circumvent the worst of the traffic is icing.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    When i used to come from Fayetteville, NC, to the Mid-Hudson Valley on visits to see my family, sometimes the drive took almost 20 hours.
    Not fun when you took Friday and Monday off to have a four day weekend!

    WIthout traffic, if I timed the trips right to avoid it, it would take 9-12 hours. Still long, but bearable. Better than sitting in airports, waiting on connecting flights!

  • A few years agp, the cops shot a guy on the I-10 just west of Palm Springs in the Banning Pass. The I-10 is the main route that runs from Florida to Los Angeles. Lots of traffic, especially trucks. The pass area where the shooting occurred has no realistic alternate routes. The cops shut down the road for 12 hours to "investigate." Some people were stuck on the highway for 12 hours.

    In contrast, about a month later, the cops shot a guy inside one of the local casinos. They evacuated the casino to "investigate." About a half hour later, they pulled the dead guy into a corner of the casino, threw a tarp over him, and let the people back in to continue gambling.

    It's all about priorities.

  • Six hours in a car, presumably doing all the driving, stop & go traffic? Wow.

    I used to commute a mere 1.5 hours each way for over a year, in a carpool with three others and zero congestion, and it still left me scarred. We've moved twice since, and both times I had to insist we get a place within a 15 minute walk of my job.

  • Dude, you commute three hours to work every day? No wonder you're fucking miserable. Take your own advice and hand someone the keys and start over wherever you are. It's not worth it.

  • Man, that's a rough commute! I have it real easy. it's like 5-10 minutes for me to get to work. Sorry to hear about your travel woes. I hope you have a fantastic weekend to make up for it. :)

  • 3 hour commute = insanity. Please tell me this isn't a daily activity. If it is, please reevaluate your living situation before it kills you.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Condolences from Los Angeles. When you're stuck in traffic because someone in front's life was recently ended or ruined, even rage doesn't feel good.

  • Springtime above the arctic circle is fucking gross. The Russian city looks about like Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in June.

  • So the Chinese have created a real life Mordor?

    Regarding commuting – between moving to Oakland and retiring, I had a fairly predictable ninety minute commute each way. Bus to BART to bus. The hospital was about as far west as you can get in San Francisco without a wetsuit. Fortunately I can read on public transit. Three hours would have done some damage.

  • Two summers ago my summer tour included the Hanford Reserve.
    Maybe this year I'll visit the Berkeley Pitt in Butte … 'cause I've already been to Bisbee and Jerome.

  • Another vote against your three-hour commute. 6 hours a day of driving is no way to spend your life. Move, change jobs, whatever you have to do, get out of your car, friend.

  • I believe, from following Ed on the book of Face, that he commutes to Peoria from Chicago twice a week, not every day. Of course, the drive still sucks although living in Chicago on the weekends has still got to be better than living Peoria full time, no matter the commute.

  • canuckistani says:

    This is why I take the train between the city I live, a thriving metropolis of 3 million, and the one where I work, a city of 300,000 and home to a second- (okay, third-) tier, medium-sized public university. Four hours each way once a week (the things one does for a partner…), but no stop and go, no idiot other drivers, and it has wifi and food service. Been delayed significant number of hours only a couple times, when someone decides to jump on the track in front of the train or misses the crossing while on their cell phone. That is rare though. Trains are the way to go if you can get one, though I suppose that's an advantage of living in Canada – the Canadian government has not fully wrecked the passenger rail system here yet, and may still put more money into it instead of letting it erode to the point of farce.

  • Just out of curiosity, I looked for the public transport options between the two cities. Takes about six hours, at least one transfer, and costs serious $$. Is this a great country we live in or what? (That would be "or what.")

  • schmitt trigger says:

    The very first comment by J. Dryden left me speechless for being so accurately spot-on.

    The aging and crumbling infrastructure, the confusing and ultra-expensive health care system, the anguish whether your job could be outsourced at any time, the fact that your retirement nest egg could vaporize for no fault of your own, and the very real threat that you could be happily strolling in the park with your grandson and someone goes into a shooting rampage…….
    Small wonder that people are absolutely fed-up with career politicians.

  • Robert Moses, the father of all these spaghetti highways and destroyer of public transit never drove. He had a chauffeured limo and worked in the back seat. He put the highways in Manhattan close to the rivers so that the drivers would have a nice view and put the parks on the other side of the highway. I'm not sure if he ever looked out the window. See Robert Caro's great biography.

  • "[The] very real threat that you could be happily strolling in the park with your grandson and someone goes into a shooting rampage……."

    And that said someone will be a cop who will claim afterward that your eight-year-old grandson was a teenaged thug whose orange Frisbee looked like a handgun.

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