Molly S. Shaffer
After hitting every traffic light from my house to the highway, I was finally cruising down I-695, enjoying one of the last days of windows-down weather for the season. My scream-singing was drowned out by the sound of Paramore’s “Misery Business” playing from my car’s speakers. I was only 45 minutes away from campus. Two songs after my car met the highway, the cloudless sky was interrupted by hundreds of red lights. Suddenly, I slammed on my brakes and my bangs were forced messily back onto my forehead. I turned down the radio as if that would help me determine the cause of the sudden interruption and saw nothing but lights. I wonder what’s going on. Peering up at my rearview mirror, I saw the line of cars build up with each passing second. I pulled the light-blue aux cord from the passenger seat to inch my phone closer to me. If I was going to be stuck in traffic, I figured that I would relieve Spotify’s duty as DJ.
With my foot still on the brake, I flipped my hair to the beat of “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World. Soon, I felt my bangs cling to my sticky forehead. Without realizing it, I reached to roll up my window and turn on the air conditioning. Great. Now I’m going to be too cold. I turned the vents away from me, hoping that my car would cool without making my nose too cold. My left foot was tapping impatiently. Ugh. This is getting ridiculous. I paused my music and called my mom.
After one ring, I was greeted with a concerned “Hello?” My mom always worries.
“I’m okay. Do you know what the holdup is on I-695?”
My mom took a deep breath and said, “No. Let me look into it and call you back.” She hung up the phone before I had the chance to respond.
Within minutes, I got a call back. Immediately, my mom said, “I don’t know what’s going on. There’s nothing on the news. Try putting the traffic channel on your radio.”
“Okay. It’s not a huge deal. We’re moving a bit now. I’ll let you know when I get to school.” She’s out of her mind if she thinks I’m listening to talk-radio. I dropped my phone in my lap, took my foot off the brake, and moved several feet forward.
My phone buzzed twice. I didn’t want to miss the chance to inch forward again. I glanced down to see who texted me and saw pink hearts. Immediately, I knew who it was. Using Siri, I dictated “I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll be back as soon as possible. I want to see you too.” I threw my phone down on the passenger seat when I realized the cars in front of me were moving.
Since I was actually moving again, I flipped off the air conditioning and rolled down the window. Finally. About two minutes after I started moving, I saw flashing lights in the distance. Orange glowing circles lined the road, and every car in front of me was turning around in compliance with the police officer’s directions. The accident must have been really bad if they aren’t even letting us drive by.
As I got closer to the turning point, I saw pieces of metal that once served as cars. Blood and glass covered the road. First responders were assessing the situation. Black bags were being loaded onto a stretcher. I turned off my radio and made my U-turn.
In silence, I drove a different way back to school. The rest of my drive, I began to count my blessings, including the small ones disguised as inconveniencies. If I didn’t hit all of the traffic lights from my house to the highway, I could have been the one being rushed to the hospital. My car could have been the one torn into pieces. My family could have been the people receiving the news that I was not coming home again. I was the lucky one because I got to sit in traffic.