Note: Sorry this has nothing to do with Christmas, I just had to share!
I wish the title of this blog was an exaggeration, but it is not. Today was truly the worse traffic day I can remember ever having, and I lived in Atlanta for 4 years. The truth is, I wanted to call this blog, “The Worst Day of My Life,” but only because it is not over yet and that would have been extremely dramatic. Let me start by saying that I have made the trip that I made today at least 100 times by this point in our stay in Haiti, and it always takes about 30 minutes round trip in terms of driving time. It almost never varies and there is very rarely any traffic on this particular route. So my plan was to go, pick up a few things (cleaning supplies, ice cream for the kids’ birthday party, and ingredients to make birthday cake and Christmas cookies with the kids) and come back home so the older kids could come over and hang out…That is not what happened. I left the house (I promise that this is not an exaggeration) at around 9:00 am and pulled back up to the gate a little before 5:00pm. During that time, I travelled approximately 6 miles and it took me 7 hours to go about 3 of those miles. To say it was a frustrating day would be a huge understatement, and I am going to explain some of the circumstances (you could call it venting) that turned my day into nothing but sitting in a car.
The drive started out just fine. I pulled out onto the main road, passed the speed bumps, and kept going thinking that I would be there pretty soon. Then I noticed that traffic had come to a complete stop on the other side of the 3 huge speed bumps (if you have been to our section of Haiti, you know these 3 speed bumps) and I was not sure why. I waited for a while and then rolled my window down and asked someone coming from the other way. He told me that part of the bridge was out and that they were repairing it but traffic would still move because one side of the bridge was still working. I decided I would wait it out and hope that the traffic would not get too bad…Huge mistake. As I waited in my lane, I started to notice that 4 other lanes were forming around me all going the same direction as me. The problem with that is that it was a 2-lane road and these lanes that were forming were blocking off any way for traffic to come the opposite direction. One of the problems with driving in Haiti is that people are extremely aggressive and there are very few enforced driving laws. That is a terrible combination. When traffic started backing up, instead of waiting in an orderly fashion for things to clear, people started going nuts. They started speeding around me, driving on both shoulders, and just in general driving like maniacs.
As I watched this happening, I realized a couple of things. First of all, I realized that I could no longer turn around and go home. Not only was I completely blocked in on both sides, even if I could turn around, the whole road was taken up with cars going only in the direction I was facing. Secondly, I realized that I was in for a really long day and I was surrounded by people who were going to make it much, much worse. On top of that, my phone was about to die so I would not be able to pass the time talking to people and I would not be able to let Jess know where I was all day. And then, just to add insult to injury, I was in a very tightly packed group of vehicles with some of the most aggressive drivers I know of. I was going to have to pay close attention to what was going on, and just to let you know I was very close to having at least 5-6 accidents at different points during the day. As much as it pays to be a defensive driver in America, if you are not extremely aggressive here then you are in trouble. At this point, I just looked around and wondered why everyone on the road thought that it was a good idea to completely block traffic coming the opposite direction because if they cannot get through, they are certainly not going to let us through. I realized I could just keep getting more and more frustrated or I could just calm down and resign myself to the fact that I was going to be alone with my thoughts for the next few hours…I chose option 1 and just got more and more frustrated.
After leaving home at 9:00, I arrived at Evas (a convenient store with some grocery store like qualities) at around 11:30 instead of 9:15 like I was expecting. I was a little frustrated, but I had calmed down some and after passing the bridge things were not too bad. I did my shopping, bought some lunch just in case it took me that long to get home, filled up with gas, and got back on the road. I made it less than ½ a mile before traffic was at a standstill on both sides of the road. We must have had at least 2 30-minute stints where I did not even put the truck in gear and just sat there doing nothing. At about 12:15 I dropped one of my fries (which was covered with ketchup) on my shirt and shorts and realized I did not have any water with which to clean it, and at about 1:30 my phone went completely dead and I was still a long way from being home. It was at that point I decided to not be frustrated but just to sit there and think and pray…That lasted about an hour (or about 50 feet of driving).
Finally, we started moving again and we were almost to the bridge. It was at this point the guy beside me decided to open his door even though there was less than 3 feet between our 2 cars…That is what brought me back to being annoyed. About 5 minutes after that, someone bumped into the back of my truck but the joke was on them because that particular brake light had fallen out weeks ago and all he did was bump into the frame where the light used to be…No harm no foul. It was about this time when all of the people selling things on the side of the road seemed to come out at once. There were people everywhere selling any food and drink you can imagine (and by that I mean muffins, bread, coke, juice, and water) and just walking up and knocking on the window. I did purchase some water and used it to pour it on my shirt and shorts where the ketchup had fallen, so that was a bonus. It was also about this time when children and adults noticed the American in the truck and came by asking for money, for my groceries (which I worked really hard to get), and for pretty much anything else they could say in English. I thought, at this point, since I was over the bridge traffic would have died down, but it didn’t. Traffic was so bad going both ways that even after passing the bridge I was at a standstill.
I finally saw a side road I could take and go the “scenic route” home. It was about 10 minutes out of the way on a normal day but today it probably shaved a good 2 hours off of my arrival time. I finally got home and some how the margarine didn’t melt but the ice cream definitely did. Luckily, the ice cream here has water has its main ingredient and milk as its 9th ingredient so I think it will refreeze alright. Anyway, it was a really long and unproductive day, but it is over and we can start again tomorrow!