Hell On Wheels ‘Amid The Pines’
To say “I don’t do traffic jams very well” is an understatement. For most Tar Heel fans, the Duke game itself may have been difficult to deal with. For me, the pre and post game circumstances were what soured my milk.
If “traffic intolerance” has its very own -aphobia, I have an acute case of it. This past Saturday I was the alcoholic stuck in a brewery. I was the gambling addict in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. It’s Monday and I still have a raspy voice and white knuckles.
An acute irrational over-reaction to one of life’s more mundane challenges? Absolutely.
The day started out just fine, albeit a bit chilly. Our pre-game show on WCHL was broadcasting live from Bailey’s Sports Grill at Rams Plaza at the far end of Fordham Blvd (15-501). Art and I were about a half hour into our incredibly astute analysis of the upcoming UNC v Duke game at about 10:30 when “the guys back at the station” broke the news to Ron Stutts.
“The Park & Ride at University Mall is not operating today.” ……. WHAT?
For reasons still unclear, with a capacity crowd expected at Beautiful Kenan Stadium, one of the five Park & Ride lots that alleviate an always challenging game day parking issue in Chapel Hill was “not operating”.
I accept that the 6-7 Football GameDays in Chapel Hill each Fall are the Easter Sundays that one does not build ones church to accommodate. Parking is always an issue in any college town. Bringing in additional 10s of 1,000s for a special event will tax the physical limitations of the community…and the emotional stability of those 10s of 1,000s.
Knowing my unnatural aversion to “being stuck in traffic” I go to great pains to map out a plan to minimize my pain. I LOVE the Park & Ride concept for Kenan GameDay. I tout it to one and all as THE way to go for maximum convenience with minimal hassle. A nominal $5 round trip ticket delivers you to Woollen Gym – a two-block walk to the stadium. Even post-game I can usually be on I-40 heading home (Raleigh) within 40 minutes of walking out of Kenan. Can’t beat it.
I took the “U-Mall shuttle not operating” news as curious but not a calamity. I would simply go down Fordham Blvd to Glen Lennox to Friday Center and use that shuttle. Simple enough, huh? Hey, I’m flexible with a “Plan B”.
We signed off at 11:00 and I headed south. I noted it was 11:10 when I passed thru the stoplight at Estes Drive & 15-501 at the BP Station. No problemo, plenty of time for the noon kick-off. Then Freddie Kruger took control. The Nightmare began.
It is less than a mile from that light to the Glen Lennox intersection. It was 12:05 when I got there. Do the math – it took 55 freakin’ minutes to get from U-Mall to Glen Lennox. I am OK in slow-moving traffic. I am not OK in no-moving traffic.
I was mild-mannered Bruce Banner at 11:10. I had “Hulked out” by 11:45. By 12:00 noon I was a threat to society.
Let me add that (1) I was alone; and (2) being late to the game was really not that big a deal. I host The Lettermen’s Lounge (aka The ChooChooLounge) but that doesn’t gear up until The Half. My ticket is complimentary. All that was really at-risk was my fragile sanity.
In any “dead stop traffic” you assume it is just a momentary glitch and you will resume moving any minute now. That logic buys you maybe five minutes of rational calm.
My normal “hulk-out” regression starts with a few polite pseudo profanities…a few unkind comments to myself about what nitwit decided to shutdown the U-Mall Park & Ride and, then the “suppose some terrorists have blown up a busload of orphans” scenario. The “suppose some terrorists have …….” is my last feeble effort to retain some sanity. Then I “go pentacostal” and I start “speaking in unknown tongues” and that tongue is very profane.
I once severely bruised a knuckle banging on the roof of my truck when stuck in a mega-jam on I-95. That knuckle still hurt me when there are severe changes in barometric pressure.
Look, I know it is foolish and immature blah blah blah. That’s why I studiously pre-plan to avoid such circumstances….. until “some jackass numbnutz has the bright idea to not operate the U-Mall shuttle for a sold-out game”.
I did get to The Friday Center around 12:20…. caught a shuttle…. which then spent ANOTHER 45 minutes stuck in Raleigh Road traffic. I walked into Kenan Stadium and The ChooChoo Lounge with six minutes to go in the 2nd Quarter.
Larry shoulda put me in at linebacker. I was ready to generate mayhem.
Before you ridicule me for my overtly immature behavior, how did YOU react to the unfortunate outcome of the game. I handle “wins & loses”, especially the latter, incredibly sanely. I never “cuss a coordinator” or demand the disemboweling of a referee. Can you say as much?
During halftime I heard other horror stories about pre-game traffic nightmares all over Chapel Hill. A perfect weather day???…and a Kenan sell-out is not all that unusual??? I really couldn’t “blame Dickie Baddour” for this. Well, I could; but not really. Blame Dan Kane? OK, that works.
The game was a down-to-the-wire nailbiter, so the usual “leave-early” Kenan crowd did not leave-early, putting additional strain on stadium exiting and area parking dissimilation…and shuttle bus reloads back to The Friday Center.
I did get home in time to see the incredible ending to the Iron Bowl. I was mild-mannered Bruce Banner again.
College athletic officials across America are wrestling with the quandary of fans opting for the convenience of at-home spectatoring versus “the in-stadium gameday experience.” I think I composed an incredible commentary about that choice between 11:45 and 12:30 Saturday but I’m not sure. That period of my life is somewhat of a blur…like that time I passed a kidney stone.
I am not of the political persuasion for which Chapel Hill is so well known; so, of course, I blamed the whole mess on “some liberal idiot in City Hall.” Like you folks in Chapelboro “blame everything on the General Assembly in Raleigh”. What would we do without our bureaucratic scapegoats?
If Reverend Barber wants to organize a march against whoever shut down that Park & Ride at U-Mall tell me when to show up.
Alas, we did not get The Bell back; but, apparently, that busload of orphans is safe.
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