Is it just me, or have you noticed that small-talk conversation over the past few years is often centered on traffic?
We know the local flow and peak times, and we estimate how long it will take to get from Old Town Bluffton to the Sea Pines Circle based on the time of year, time of day, and which day.
We get used to it and plan for it. But beyond the daily trek to your work, school, or golf game, the traffic seems to get worse near the holidays. And it's worse still on the interstate highways.
It is common now to have to stop and sit on I-95 for long periods of time because of traffic. It happened recently on our return trip from the Upstate after a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend with family. It was, of course, on the Sunday after. You know, the one day of the year when everyone who owns a vehicle gets out on the highways just to clog up those of us who must travel! Or so it seems.
My husband prefers that I drive home from wherever we go. I think he believes I'm the calmer of us. I'm not so sure. Maybe on the outside I appear to be in a yoga trance, but in my head, I'm devising sinister ways to eliminate the obstacles between me and my own bed.
(My favorite made-up invention is called The Evaporator. It doesn't hurt anyone. It simply removes and transports any vehicle that is impeding my progress to another unknown place with the zap of my Evaporator transmitter, which would be attached to the steering wheel.)
This last journey home reminded me of recent return trips after hurricane evacuations. If you live in the Lowcountry, you are familiar. It takes 13 hours to drive 30 miles.
We have gotten a little smarter in recent years and at least look at the tools available to us. We check Waze, the Apple map, Google maps, and whatever other map app my tech people can find.
Generally, they all convey the same message: Gee, this traffic is a nightmare!
We have attempted the "back roads" solution, but it doesn't always work. Too many other smart people have figured out that trick. The back roads are just as bungled up, and clean bathrooms are farther apart.
We now leave earlier than we used to. No more late afternoon Sunday lunches with the family. We try to get on the road by 2 p.m., which really means 3 p.m. Again, everyone else has the same idea.
Certainly the truckers prefer afternoon travel. We were amazed by how many big rigs we saw, sitting in long lines of stopped traffic with the rest of us mortals. There were dozens upon dozens of them!
This last voyage gave me ample opportunity to contemplate traffic issues, based on First World habits. I think I have the answer.
Could it be because of Amazon?
Think about it. According to USA Today last December, Amazon shipped more than 1 billion (with a B) items last holiday season. We can only imagine that the number will increase this year.
I think what we saw on the road was partially the result of the folks who chose not to venture out to shop on Black Friday. Instead, they sat in their pajamas in the comfort of their homes, purchasing Christmas gifts online. The lure of two-day shipping was too delicious.
And what was two days later?
It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when people like us were just trying to get home to our own beds.
Maybe next year, we'll have Thanksgiving at our house.