A large flashing road sign was coming into view. It was one of those temporary traffic control signs on wheels that can be towed to where ever the DOT wishes to annoy drivers. This one announced, "Road Closed Ahead. Exit onto Route 1." It's not often that I encounter such a situation while traveling on a major interstate highway, and I'm thankful for that. However this occurrence could not have come at a worse time, because I was on my way to the Philadelphia airport to meet an incoming flight.
The two lanes of traffic heading south on Interstate 95 south had stopped, with me at the tail end. Ahead I could see a sign announcing the exit for Route 1. Unfortunately it said that the exit was one mile beyond the sign, and the sign was still a quarter of a mile away. No one was moving. I've taken that exit a number of times. There is a traffic light at the exit that only turns green after everyone waiting for it becomes really aggravated. I estimated that it would be at least 30 minutes before I could exit onto Route One, and God only knows what awaited me at that point or where the detour would lead.
Had there been no problems I would have arrived at the airport in about 30 minutes, allowing myself an additional 30 minutes to park and get to the gate area. It was now looking bad. I started to sweat and turned up my truck's air conditioning. My dog Nina was looking cool, calm and collected in the back seat. I was jealous.
I eyed the green belt between the southbound lane and the northbound lane. It was wide and somewhat steep, but I had a truck. I could make it. So, being well aware that U-turns on an Interstate highway are very illegal, I put the truck into 4-wheel drive and broke the law. Soon I was speeding northbound on I-95, thankful that all the cops were probably occupied with some disaster further south. The bad news was that I was headed away from the airport.
Being familiar with the area I took the first exit and spent 20 minutes on back streets, wending my way south until I thought I was past whatever was blocking the interstate. I eventually got back on I-95 beyond the problem area but still 20 minutes from the airport. My safety margin was now down to 15 minutes.
Arriving at the airport I discovered that all of the parking areas near the terminals involved parking garages. The entrance to each of these had a large PVC pipe hung horizontally over the entry gates with signs that read; '6 feet maximum'. My truck was at least seven feet high. Whoever planned these parking garages must have been a sports car owner and a mental midget.
I asked directions to outdoor parking from an Avis guard and I didn't even know Avis had guards. He said that my only choices involved taking a bus back to the airport. I was now into my 15-minute countdown. I headed for the long-term 'Economy Parking'. Of course it was full. I managed to find a questionable spot which was probably illegal, but figured I wouldn't be there more than 30 minutes or so, and thus my chances of getting ticketed were minimal considering the thousands of cars parked there. A shuttle bus was coming up the row next to mine and I ran over and got on it. I was going to make it after all.
At the exit gate for long-term parking the shuttle bus stopped. After a few minutes of going nowhere people started squirming, and someone asked what was wrong. "The gate won't go up," the driver responded. I noticed cars trying to get into the parking area were also backing up. "The power is off and we have to wait for maintenance." 'Just great,' I thought. What else could happen? I suggested that someone go out and lift the gate since it was just a wooden 1x4 that came down across the exit. "Oh no, we can't do that," was the driver's response. Evidently initiative is not a prerequisite for shuttle bus driving.
Looking out the window I spotted the terminal areas off in the distance and mentally calculated that my chances of getting there on foot were better than sitting and waiting for maintenance. I disembarked, as they say in the transportation business, and headed towards the terminal at a very rapid walk. I got to the terminal at the flight arrival time and, except for some unwanted body odor, I was feeling relieved and satisfied to have made it in the face of all the obstacles I'd encountered.
The arrival board didn't show the flight from Denver that I was meeting. I went in search of Airport Information and the lady in charge couldn't find the flight number in her computer. I commented that I had checked the airport web site just two hours earlier for arriving flights. The flight had been listed at that time. I noticed she was using the same web site I used. She found two other flights from Denver arriving about the same time. One was arriving via Chicago and the other one was a direct flight from Denver, but it was arriving at another terminal. I recalled a joke about a gay football center who didn't know which way to turn.
I made a quick decision to meet the direct flight and raced outside and down to terminal D, but as it turned out, the person I hoped was arriving never left Denver. She had canceled her trip. Of course I didn't find this out until I'd met all of the Denver flights. Disappointed, I took my time getting home. I rode the shuttle bus back to long-term parking where the gates were now working. I paid a $7.50 parking fee (one hour and 24 hours cost the same in "economy" parking) and headed home, all the while mumbling to myself about why the best of plans often turn out so poorly. In this case not only did my day's plans turn out poorly, but they also signaled the end of a serious relationship that, less than a year ago, was headed for marriage.
As I sadly headed northward towards home I noticed that I-95 was still closed southbound, and that there were cops all over the scene of whatever had happened. The wreckers and ambulances had come and gone, but I couldn't help thinking that my day was going pretty well considering that a few hours earlier the plans of more than one person were permanently ended in that southbound lane. I reached over and softly touched Nina as we headed on north.