The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Can You Ever Go Home?

by Ron Bowlyow

Did you ever notice that when you ask for directions here, you usually get an answer described in miles and direction? For example, it's about ten miles south of here, or something like that. Yet, when you ask for directions in a city, you get a totally different answer.

It is likely you will be told how long it will take you to get there rather than how many miles it is. For instance, it will take you forty-five minutes to get there, or whatever.

Well, after living in a few metropolitan areas, I can understand the difference in the two answers.

Here, when you are ten miles from some place, you are usually ten to fifteen minutes away, depending on whether you are going to travel a secondary roadway or one of the state or US highways.

It will also depend if you are talking about going to a place with a lot of stop lights on the way. But on average, if you travel about 60 mph, you are going a mile a minute, so distance and time pretty much equate.

Not so in the cities. When living in the Washington DC area, I lived seventeen miles from work. In the mornings, that trip took about forty-five minutes. But in the evenings, the same trip usually took an hour and a half.

That was in spite of the best efforts of various government agencies, staggering work hours for employees so that not everyone would be on the streets at the same time.

Some agencies had hours from 7 to 3-others 8 to 4 and so on. Try as they may, that afternoon trip home always took twice as long. That was normal.

Now add snow or rain and you could figure an even longer commute home.

For many years the philosophy for snow removal in our nation's capital was what God put on the ground, God would take care of. There was no snow removal.

Then came the big storm of February, 1979, that dumped upwards of 24 inches of snow. The city was paralyzed for four days. Many people who were no longer able to navigate their vehicles simply got out of them, abandoned them on the streets, and found other transportation home.

As the few snow plows attempted to clean the streets, the task was made impossible by all the abandoned cars. It was a disaster. After that mighty snow fall, changes were made in short order for improved snow removal. Political heads rolled.

I can recall one work day that combined a snow storm, a large jet plane crashed, taking a nose dive in the Potomac River, and a fire on the subway. That evening, it took me nearly seven hours to drive that seventeen miles.

For some, the commute took so long they ran out of gas and had no choice but to abandon their vehicles. Another disaster. But just another day in the life of a commuter.

So the next time you have to drive ten miles and it takes twenty minutes because of a stopped train on the tracks or a slow moving piece of farm equipment, please remember it could always be worse.