So there we were driving west down 80 through Sacramento. It was late Sunday afternoon and nothing was going on that should have made traffic bad...
But wait. Let me give you the visual.
We were on a section of 80 with four lanes, so let's designate those so you'll know what happened.
Here's how they're laid out:
left left lane right left lane left right lane right right lane
LL RL LR RR
Makes sense, right? We were in the LR, and traffic was actually moving smoothly enough.
Now, as I was saying, we were cruising along and, suddenly, there was one of those concrete lane dividers in between the RL and LR and a big sign on the right saying that that was the way to the I-5 interchange.
Let's just be clear here: There had been no signs warning about construction. There were no signs explaining what was going on. There were no signs about anything except the one on the right saying that that was the way to I-5. My wife is the navigator, so I expressed my concern to my wife about the sudden division in the highway. She said, "Well, we don't want to go to I-5." So I did what I think anyone would have done being in unfamiliar territory (I don't live in or near Sacramento) with no other instructions: I moved from the LR to the RL.
We quickly realized that this might not have been the correct choice.
See, the cars in the left two lanes, the cars that were now in what felt like some sort of cattle chute, immediately began slowing down. And stopping. This began one of the longest hours of my life. Actually, more than an hour. And, yes, some hours are longer than others. It's relativity.
We could see over the concrete divider, and we could see the cars in the right lanes zipping along their merry way. And, well, all of the exits were on the right side of the wall. Imagine if you will that you had never been to Sacramento before and you were coming in but were in the fast lane and this wall suddenly went up and you were stuck in this congested traffic and, as you were inching along, you saw your exit... on the other side of the wall! No, that's not what happened to us, but it could have. See, once you were on the left side of the wall, you were on the left side of the wall!
So we drove and we watched the traffic on the right moving at normal paces and we watched the exits go by and we wondered. We wondered what the fuck was going on and why there was a wall in the road. And we would drive a bit, then stop a bit, and move a bit, then stop a bit, and we couldn't figure out why that was, either. Why was traffic on our side of the wall so bad and the other side was normal?
You know in movies and TV shows when they have the orphan, street kids hanging out at the window of a restaurant looking in with that "please, sir, can I have some more?" face? That's what it felt like being on the left side of the road wall. Time goes faster on the freeway, so we were really there for some exponential amount of time beyond the actual amount of time we were there, so, yes, we were starving to move. Why did all of those other cars get to go and not us?! "Please, sir, we want to go!"
Then there was a hole. And a big sign saying that was the exit for I-5. Remember how we didn't want to go to I-5? Well, we still didn't want to go to I-5. So we watched this one opening in the wall go by because we couldn't tell what the fuck was going on! And we continued down our cattle chute, and I made jokes about how we were going to be slaughtered when we got to the end... until everyone told me to shut up.
That was when the lanes merged. Yes, LL and RL became just L, and that was why the traffic was so bad. Okay, not all of why, but we're not to the rest yet. See, at the end of all of this was a bridge that went over the Sacramento river, and the cattle chute we were in had to be merged back into the other traffic to go over the bridge. That, of course, made it all stop and go again.
Yes, you read that correctly. At the end of it all, the traffic was just merged back together. That was it. No apparent reason for the divider or anything, just a shunting of two lanes of traffic out of the flow and merged together for no fucking reason at all! So, yeah, that was more than an hour to go less than 10 miles (8? maybe even just 6?).
That's when the jokes started. You know, some disgruntled traffic controller or something messing with things just to see what kind of traffic snarls he could cause. Or weird experiments. I don't remember what all now. What I do remember is that no one was happy.
I mean, seriously, what the fuck is up with that? Maybe it was all because of some construction project (which wasn't active on a Sunday afternoon), but, still, there needs to be some sort of warning and explanation so that people can know what choice to make. Like I said, we hadn't wanted an exit (until, actually, we did, because my wife was looking up a better route because of the traffic issues, but we couldn't get out of the cattle chute, so it didn't matter), but, if I had been coming into town and had intended to take one of the, oh, I don't know, dozen or so of exits we passed, I would have been pissed. And probably lost, because, when it's just me, I write down my directions explicitly, and having an exit I need to take be closed can really throw me off. Having no access to any of them would have been devastating for my paltry skills of navigating (which is why my wife is the navigator (and I'm the pilot)).
Whatever the case, I have only one thing to say to whomever was responsible for that catastrophe of road design: Fuck you!