Monday, February 15, 2016

Random Musings of a Ramblin' Fool LIII

In an Eclectic Arcania first, I have posted Random Musings columns on consecutive days. Tonight's installment is different as it will be a reflection of this day now coming to a close. Typically with this column I am inspired to varying degrees by the structure of Herb Caen's column which I so enjoyed when I discovered it in the early 1990's in its twilight years.

A Day of Detours

As I revealed in the previous Random Musings column, today I was supposed to take the CSET Social Sciences Subtest III. This was to occur in Santa Maria, CA, at a test center at 2 p.m. (Note: Santa Maria is the murder capital of the Central Coast) Today was also President's Day and holiday traffic moving along Highway 101 through the Central Coast was noticeably more pronounced. In fact, it was even worse than typical for a Monday on a holiday weekend.

Right before I left my house to drive down to take the test, I heard on my scanner a dispatch for fire and medics to a traffic collision on northbound Highway 101 at the 13th Street bridge. When I got on Highway 101 southbound from 17th Street in Paso Robles I noticed that the traffic accident I had just heard about on the scanner was blocking traffic on the northbound side creating a rapidly-lengthening of congestion extending southward. I would later learn that this was a matter involving a semi-truck rear-ending a travel trailer which created a huge mess lasting most of the afternoon.

The trend of jacked-up holiday traffic congestion of one sort or another continued the entire drive down to Santa Maria (and back) with some such zones being due to ongoing traffic collisions/mishaps, or due to earlier accidents by-then-cleared but with phantom congestion continuing, or simply due to the sheer volume of traffic overwhelming particular sections of highway.

The ongoing, unseasonable, un-El Niño-esque, mid-winter heatwave continued today with Santa Maria crushing the previous daily high temperature mark by 4° F to 88° F while Arroyo Grande (through which I drove going and coming) hit 90° F.

I got to the Pearson testing site about 45 minutes early so I would have time to study and time to get signed in and set up before starting at the assigned time. I tried to study in the waiting room but they didn't want my text books in the room (lame rule) so I headed back out to my car to study. If only I had checked my wallet before leaving the office at that moment and saved myself 45 more wasted minutes... or had checked my wallet before leaving my house earlier.... or before leaving the testing center at Cal Poly four days ago where I apparently left my drivers license after taking it out of my wallet, but not returning it prior to leaving the building.

That's right, four days ago when I took the CSET Subtest II at the Cal Poly test center, I had to show a government-issued proof of identity because the testers don't want ringers coming in and taking tests for people. I was only allowed to bring to my testing computer my drivers license and a key to a locker containing everything I brought to the test other than the clothes on my back. After the test, when I was gathering all my stuff from the locker and getting ready to rush off to a stressful mid-term test in my Nuclear Science & Society class, I somehow left my drivers license there. Therefore, in the four days since then, I have been driving around without a drivers license on my person. I always keep my license in my wallet so I never thought to check for it in my wallet before leaving for Santa Maria this morning.

Upon realizing my error, I was forced to confront the unpleasant reality that I had burned $99 for nothing (the cost to take the test which is not refundable) as well as the cost of my gasoline and wear and tear on my car as well as the cost of my time which was also an opportunity cost of whatever I did not accomplish with that time instead had I elected to do something different during that time slot.

At this point something interesting happened. I didn't sweat it. I accepted what happened and moved on by getting in my car and driving home the way I came. Of course, I was concerned not to get pulled over by the constabulary now that I realized I was driving without carrying on my person my drivers license. Aside from that I simply let go and reasoned that God had me in that spot for a reason. "What was it?", I internally asked Him.

My first concern was that I was operating outside His perfect will and being subject to a lack of blessing or perhaps more seriously had erred in some way and was suffering slap-on-the-hand consequences. I started with that possibility (Ecclesiastes 7:14) and soon was able to eliminate that possibility and thus moved on to other possibilities. Was to I meet somebody in my path and talk to them? Was I to drive up on a traffic collision right after it happened and render aid and change somebody's life? Or was I simply to get out and take a drive and clear my flustered head on the open road like I used to do in my youth all the while awash in a bath of photons streaming in from the sun on this glorious summer-like day and just listen to Him and realize my personal growth and grow yet more? Yep!

This internal process caused me to realize something: I have changed over the course of the past several years. My zen-like reaction to this day's events was tangible evidence of growth in my being and character over the course of recent years. Dare I call it a measure of spiritual maturation? I'm afraid to jinx myself and get all self-congratulatory and then go fall on my face in spectacular fashion in short order. However, I have grown and I don't typically respond to minor adversities in ways I usually used to. I'm far from perfect and still sometimes overreact to disappointments or setbacks by feeling sorry for myself or feeling exasperated or being tempted to despair. However, I don't usually react in those ways and I did not today.

But wait.... there's more! I noticed yet more about myself. On the drive home I soon realized there was a traffic back-up in Atascadero just north of San Anselmo Road. Without hesitation I did not follow the herd into the morass of traffic and jumped off northbound Highway 101 at the aforementioned road and got onto northbound El Camino Real and paralled the freeway around the problem site (an overturned car resulting from a tire blowout) and then jumped back on the northbound Highway 101 in the clear...

.....until I approached North Main Street in Templeton, CA, and espied an even worse traffic back-up. Again, without mentally skipping a beat, I automatically responded to the situation by choosing not to be a lemming and follow what was before me, but rather I jumped off of the freeway and zipped over the overpass and got onto northbound Theater Drive to go around the traffic and get on Highway 46 West a short distance and then turn northbound onto the South Vine Street frontage road in Paso Robles. I soon encountered gridlock in and around the big Target Shopping Center up that road and near unto the Highway 101/46W intersection. This told me the traffic gridlock (as in not one iota of visible forward motion by any vehicle) extended from in front of Target up Theater Drive around the bend adjacent to the hotels and OSH and through the intersection of Theater Drive and Highway 46 West.

Once again, without the slightest hesitation or dithering, I flipped an illegal U-turn and proceeded back to North Main Street and got back on the freeway southbound to the next exit at Las Tablas Road in Templeton, where I left the freeway and headed west to Bethel Road turning north and taking it to Highway 46 West further out to the west of the congestion having gone entirely around it.... but not entirely. No sooner had I turned eastbound onto Highway 46 than I noticed gridlock up ahead..... meaning the gridlock extended miles east to the 101.... headed towards the back of the back-up and was just barely able to angle turn left onto northbound Arbor Road and took it through the countryside, sometimes on pavement, sometimes on dirt roadbed, to Kiler Canyon Road which I took eastbound back to South Vine just south of First Street/Niblick Road in Paso Robles, CA.

From there it was smooth sailing back home. By now it was apparent to me that the previous accident on Highway 101 many hours ago at the 13th Street Bridge was the culprit of all the gridlock on the waning afternoon of a holiday weekend Monday. This was confirmed when I soon headed back to mom's house in Atascadero. I got back on the 101 Freeway at 17th Street as I did earlier in the day. As I headed south I noticed CALTRANS retrieving all the cones closing down right lane. With the increased road load as people headed home from the holiday at the end of the way, the back-up was even worse now as it extended from about 13th Street in Paso Robles all the way southward through Templeton to just south of Vineyard Ave.... something I have seen before.

Through all these successful detours, I realized a few things. I inherited the tendency from my mother's side of the family to be a great and imaginative driver, if not a bit impulsive and restless. I noticed that I am in many ways, not just in my driving, that I am not so much a follower-type but rather a free-thinker and leader-type. What happened here was allegorical of that in addition to being an expression of it directly. Most importantly, I realized there was symbolism in all the days setbacks and detours and yet I was constantly moving forward and yet staying safe and getting other things done, merely not the ones for which I planned.... just like my life has been more generally in recent years and undoubtedly will continue to be.

God is good.

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