Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Wall....

As you well know, if you have been reading my blogs for the past year or so, I drive a commuter bus over the Altamont to Dublin every day. I've been doing it, off and on, for about 6-7 years now. I drove it for the first time in the afternoons, and did so for about two and a half years, then I took a break, and now I drive the morning route.

Anyway. When I first began driving the bus, CalTrans was in the middle of improving highway 205, a stretch of road that runs from I-5 and connects up with the 580 at the edge of Alameda county. It is two lanes both ways and runs right through the city of Tracy and is an absolute bottleneck during commute hours. The decision was made to expand it to three lanes, and so CalTrans installed one of those white concrete walls down the left side of the freeway. It was a couple of miles long, and I absolutely HATED it! It bordered the fast lane, and I was scared to take my huge bus into the lane, because it just looked too small for my vehicle to fit safely between the lines. My instructor, who rode with me to the Bay and then drove the bus back with the people in it every day for a week, told me that it was merely a psychological barrier. If I looked at it logically, the wall existed on the other side of the yellow line, which meant that there was plenty of room for my bus. I didn't care--I swore I would NEVER drive in that lane!

And then the day came when I had some geezer in front of me driving about 40 mph. I muttered and cursed to myself, then finally I decided that I would have to do it--I would have to drive in the lane with The Wall. Taking a deep breath, I carefully moved my bus in to the fast lane, white-knuckled fingers in a death grip on the steering wheel, until I was safely in my lane and past the other vehicle. And I realized that my instructor had been right all along. It was a freeing moment for me, and I drove on my way with renewed confidence.

That was the past. For some reason CalTrans never finished the roadway--they made one lane and never connected it up through the bridges and it has sat there, unused, for about five years or so. Until now. Work has once again began on 205. Two weeks ago a wall appeared at the beginning of the freeway where it connects to the I-5. It was rather unexpected and caused some alarm and much hard-braking as the unsuspecting commuter traffic came to the turnoff and were confronted with The Wall. I had to do some scrambling myself to get over into the slow lane because this part of the road curves and I don't think my bus will be able to negotiate the curve safely.

Since then the road crews have been steadily adding to the length of The Wall. It now stretches about 3-4 miles and I am a nervous wreck every morning as I have to confront this monster. I cannot stay in the slow lane--the trucks often only travel at 40 mph and I have to get past them to keep on schedule. It is frustrating and nerve-wracking to have to putt along behind the big rigs until I hit the straight-away and can make my move. Even now, some five years later and many thousands of miles of commuting experience behind me, The Wall still manages to scare the piss out of me! One false move and I could be playing pin ball with The Wall and several cars around me as I bounce off of it's unforgiving concrete sides and go careening across the freeway into the fields on the other side. It is a sobering and rather daunting thought, and believe me, it crosses my mind EVERY morning that I have to run this gauntlet of terror! I have found that by taking a deep breath and keeping my eyes straight ahead, I can keep my bus moving in a straight line until I reach the end of The Wall. What horrifies me is that I think they are going to place The Wall all the way to the end of the corridor--every day they have added partitions and lengthened it by several hundred feet and every day my stress rises as I realize that I must travel further and further to reach the end and escape my personal hell.

Of course, it doesn't help that I got sideswiped the other morning while on the 580 going through Livermore. And the idiot didn't even stop! Thankfully there were no injuries on my bus and the damage was extremely minimal, but it scared me pretty badly--I shook like a leaf for about half an hour while sitting on the side of the freeway waiting for the CHP to make a report. All I could think is that if that had happened on the 205 I may not have gotten off so easily.... Scary stuff,this driving thing.

I guess the way I look at it is this: Either I will conquer my fear and continue to drive this particular route, or I won't and I will have to give it up and take something that stays closer to home until they finish road construction. Of course, knowing the state of California, those guys could be out there for the next 5 years, so I am pretty sure that I will have to go with option A and conquer my fear of The Wall. It's only a psychological barrier. Yeah, right! A psycholgical barrier that can have some serious consequences if I veer off the beaten path even slightly! Wish me luck!

1 comment:

Chari-Dee said...

Oh sweety! I am so sorry you got sideswiped! Scary stuff indeed. I am so THANKFUL that you and all your passengers were OK.

I hatehatehate driving on the side of the road with a wall on it. It scares me. I feel trapped and find myself driving slower because I feel like I'm swerving and the wall is getting closer and closer. Maybe it is a pshycological (sp) thing, but a powerful one. And not one without merit. I wish you luck in making peace with The Wall and continued safety.

Merry Christmas