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Love Astros baseball, hate the traffic jam that follows

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Have I mentioned before in these columns how I hate traffic jams? Yes, I have. But recently I got into the mother of traffic jams.

The Astros were playing a 1 p.m. game, so why not go and join family there? I cleared my busy schedule and went to see some baseball. With Altuve, Springer, Correa, Keuchel and the rest of the Astros team doing so well, I thought it would be nice to see them in person, maybe even catch a ball or appear on the big screen.

That would be a first for either one. What’s the harm? I’d be out of Houston by the time rush hour traffic starts, unless they go into extra innings.

What a nailbiter. This is just what the doctor ordered, getting away from work. The Astros won. I passed on trying to catch a ball so the fan behind me could, and the family appeared on the big screen twice. Then we started driving back to Angleton.

It’s been awhile since I got into heavy traffic in Houston. I try to avoid it as much as possible. But on a beautiful Spring afternoon, the home runs and cheering still in my ear, I got into my car and headed home, as did 23,000 other fans.

As did all the school children in the school buses and in their parents’ cars. As did the workers also on their way home in what seemed like a really early rush hour. That was strike three, and I was out – on the downtown Houston streets, standing still, watching impatiently as the police tried to direct traffic.
Two wrecks near Minute Maid Park didn’t help.

I can handle it. It’s not like I have to drive in this mess every day. I had Google Maps on my phone, which was trying its best to reroute me. I had no idea where I was going. I was just following directions.

The school bus to my right was driven by someone with nerves of steel and endless patience. It was a new one, still shiny and no dents. It was making its way through stop-and-go traffic with the rest of us. The driver must have done this a few times before.

When I was in college, I used to take the bus weekly between two cities, and always admired how the drivers could maneuver on those narrow streets. The highway part of the driving was a breeze, but the rest took a lot of attention and skill – and courage.

And back in those days, the buses had manual transmissions.

I always said that I wanted to drive a bus just for the fun of it, but on the open road, not in this kind of congestion.

So, I was sitting in the middle of a downtown street next to a school bus, wondering if we would ever get back home.

This was like evacuating from Hurricane Rita in 2005, except slower, because I never got into that mess, created by the planning genius of former Houston Mayor Bill White. Those of you who were sitting for endless hours on Houston highways, trying to evacuate, know what I am talking about.

The GPS had me get on Hwy. 45, so I could stand still there with the rest of the cars. It was trying to get me out of this mess. The “gears” were turning hard inside that smartphone. Then it switched me over to Loop 610, where I was actually able to crawl along before being diverted to Hwy. 59, and lastly to Texas 288, slowly winding my way out of Houston.

Eventually things opened up, and I was flying along past Pearland and Manvel, heading home. I swear that I’ll never complain again about traffic on 288 between Angleton and Lake Jackson at 5 p.m. We’ll see how long that lasts.

To all of you commuters who battle this traffic mess daily, you have better nerves and patience than I do. I salute you, and you deserve a medal. As for me, I prefer the open country roads. There are still a few of those left around here.