Traffic jams and I don’t mix

By John Toth

Now I know why I hate driving in Houston.
The Texas A&M Transportation (TAMU) Institute, which tracks the worst traffic spots in America, has released its annual list of worst traffic cities. They analyzed last year’s data from more than 100 cities in America and came up with the worst of the worst.
Houston landed No. 6 on the list, right behind Boston and New York.
The rest of the cities are: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and No. 1, Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, I have driven in most of these cities at one time or another, but now my task is to stay away as much as possible, especially from Houston, which is nearest to me.
It all started many decades ago. I was enjoying a leisurely drive on a highway in a major metropolitan area, when a traffic jam popped up out of nowhere in the middle of the day.
That’s how a lot of them pop up. You’re in this huge parking lot called a highway, and as you inch along, you wonder what actually caused this humongous waste of gas and time. There is a cause, but to many of us, whom are feeling the effect, it often remains a mystery.
All of the sudden, traffic clears up, and there is no reason why it should have been tied up in the first place.
Of course, there are those instances when it’s obvious, like when there is highway construction in the middle of rush hour, or two trucks are traveling side by side, while the rest of us are forced to follow behind.
But, on this particular day, there was no reason. There were no trucks, no accidents, nothing else. It was just a traffic jam -- too many cars trying to go the same way without enough room to do it, -- all at the same time. But, it happened to be the biggest traffic jam in the world. Or, that’s what I thought at that particular time.
That’s why I exited as soon as I could, thinking that I could make more progress on the streets.
Everybody was thinking the same thing, so we just transferred the traffic jam from the highway to the feeder road, which intersected with some city streets. We made a big knot. Nobody knew what to do.
The cops stayed away. They probably didn’t want to get in this messy maze. We were on our own. We got out of our cars and just looked at each other. People from all walks of life, who would never see each other after this encounter, were forced to interact to be able to get out of this mess and again go our separate ways.
We started backing traffic out of the intersection, and made room for one car to squeeze through, which created a little more room for another car, and so on. The key was to make sure that a new car did not plug things up again, so those who were the worst off, and were not going anywhere anyway, went to stop traffic.
It started slow, but then as more room freed up, we eventually all were able to unravel ourselves from this metallic knot. I parked my car on the street after being freed and walked back to help those who helped me. Soon enough, we had the problem solved.
I felt good until I walked back to my car. On that old, cracked windshield, was a spanking new parking ticket.
But back to my original theme.
In Washington D.C., where the survey found the worst traffic congestion in the country, the individual driver sits in traffic jams for 67 hours cumulatively each year. I thought evacuating from a hurricane was bad. These guys do that almost daily.
Gas wasted in traffic: 32 gallons; cost of congestion per driver: $1,398.
Here is where I make a pitch for public transportation, or highlight the benefits of living in small towns, where the biggest traffic congestion is when school lets out.
They both beat sitting in traffic for 67 hours each year.
What happened to thr traffic ticket? I thought about fighting it, but wound up paying it.
Then I moved to a small town.