Long weekends are often synonymous with tying up loose ends at work, a sense of pride in a job well-done, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of levity, and the joy of being rewarded with an extra day off to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour.
In my perfect Pollyanna-bubble world, on the last work day before a long weekend, people are sporting their best smiles, wishing each other a great long weekend, high-fiving each other as they pass each other in the lobby of the office tower. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and everyone is in the best mood eagerly anticipating the best long weekend ever!
That is… until they get outside. From about noon onward, the city is in complete gridlock.
Traffic is at a standstill, the electronic signs on mall parking lots are blinking “FULL”, the grocery stores are bursting with hangry people with towering shopping carts, and liquor store patrons are lined-up as far as the eye can see.
For some reason, there isn’t a drop of patience to be found as drivers are almost mowing down pedestrians, everyone is blowing yield signs and stop signs, and the world is seemingly possessed by road rage punctuated by a stronger than usual sense of self-entitlement.
It was incredibly validating to hear that it wasn’t just my own borderline introvert lens that saw things this way when I was told that law enforcement officers are posted in the parking lot of the “warehouse-style” store to keep the peace and to direct the crawling traffic.
In trying to avoid the mayhem, I turn to the trusty traffic report on the radio. My ears glaze over (if that’s possible) as the report goes on and on and on, recommending route after route to avoid due to congestion and collisions. How could every major highway, arterial, collector, distributor and local route be like a parking lot?
Where did all this volume come from?
It becomes especially puzzling when it is a clear day with no precipitation and Mother Nature cannot be held accountable.
Did the entire city suddenly get calls from unexpected long weekend guests and everyone is in panic mode to prepare?
Is it the prospect of one day of store closures for the national holiday that has people stocking up like the zombie apocalypse was approaching, creating a sort of zombie apocalypse of its own?
But with more stores than ever, open for longer hours than ever, through what stroke of universal choreography did everyone end up on the roads and in the stores at the exact same time? It’s truly mind-boggling.
Regular readers of my blog know that I really don’t fare well in angry mobs. The overwhelming negativity is the kryptonite to my Pollyanna can-see-the-bright-side-in-anything superpower.
Over the last few months, I often found myself pacing in the André-cave, deep in thought, trying to find ways to get through the weekend’s to-do list, without needing the national/provincial holiday to recuperate from the ordeal.
Easter weekend, I decided to stay at the office later on the Thursday, only to find that my deferred departure just landed me into more traffic.
On the May long weekend, my next strategic move was to wave the metaphoric white flag and to reserve a table at a favourite restaurant near my office and have a relaxing sit down Friday dinner until the traffic lightened up. I felt mocked by the universe when the neighbours on either side of my booth were spewing at the top of their lungs about the traffic, the stores and the weight of their shopping cart. I sighed and motioned to my server to bring me a glass of wine… and a pair of earplugs if he had some handy.
On the Canada Day long weekend, I decided to avoid the whole scene and just booked the day off to make an extra-long weekend out of it. I felt better already. And in knowing what traffic woes usually develop after noon, I was committed to getting my groceries and errands all done in the morning. By noon, I was to be off the streets.
But I admit I got a little overconfident as my errands went so well, at 11:45 I decided to make one last trip, thinking I’d be home before the wave of traffic. I was wrong.
After spending 45 minutes in gridlocked traffic due to a stalled vehicle on the side of the road in the middle of an unannounced lane closure for the ever-present summer construction, I aborted the mission, made a sharp right at the next major intersection and headed home via another heavily travelled route, kicking myself for not following through with my own plan to just stay at home.
On the August long weekend, I booked another Friday off and committed to perfect adherence to my planned schedule. All went well, but the reality was that with some retail establishments being open on the Monday, the Friday morning retail world was unusually quiet. In retrospect, I probably could have left that vacation day in the bank.
For Labour Day weekend, it came as no surprise when I booked Friday off again. But this time I also did most of my groceries and errands on the Thursday evening. On the Friday, I only needed to pick up four different things from four different specialty shops within a 5 km radius from my home. With tactical finesse, I succeeded in completing my mission in under one hour. I dug deeply for an extra dose of discipline and resisted the urge to step out for any other purpose.
Parenthetically, as I was getting ready to go out, the four items became five when my anti-perspirant decided that it had dispensed its last dose. While I thought I had a few spares, a quick glance under the bathroom sink revealed that I ran through them all (it was indeed a hot sweaty summer) and I had not replenished. Fortunately, I was able to return the list to four when I found a nearly full one in my travel bag. Whew! Sweaty crisis averted!
Upon my return, with the errands completed and a firm decision to not leave the house for the rest of the day, a deep sense of relaxation set in. When the evening newscast came on and started reporting on the city’s gridlock, I laughed an evil laugh, not unlike a comic book archvillain’s, in realizing that I had won the battle… at least for this weekend.
I really do not understand the hostility that people seem to radiate on days when we should all be in the best of moods, when a long weekend is just around the corner. That emotionally jostling negativity is contagious and I have decided that I’m not having it anymore.
It may take days of planning, rescheduling and a firm commitment to swoop into stores ahead of time, but if keeping my travels on the day before a long weekend to the absolute necessities is the way to start the weekend with a big smile, positive energy and an overflowing supply of high-fives, then that’s an investment I’m willing to make.
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Have a great day,