Updated: Feb 18
30 minutes left or I will be late for work, again. And I don’t want to be.
On heavenly days, when roads are blessed with eerie quiet and lingering questions of where is everybody today? How come there is no traffic? It takes 10 minutes from my house to work. I’d leave at 7:10. By 7:12, I am on the main road. 7:15, I’m waving “NO” to peddlers selling random goods near the Israeli checkpoint. I smirk at the lady fixing her makeup in the car on the right lane heading to Jerusalem. By 7:17, I cross the first roundabout. A minute later, I pass the second one. Exactly one minute left for me to ride up a hill to get to work, provided that a stray school bus doesn’t stop in the middle of the road to pick lagging students.
10 minutes is what it should take or what it used to take me to get to work.
Now, days like this are rare.
I still haven’t crossed the first roundabout, and the peddlers have put down their goods and started managing traffic. The lady heading to Jerusalem is, where she always is, on my right side moving her hands like the IDK emoji. It’s our morning salute when we are both stuck like this.
My colleague, a miss goody-two-shoes, would always tell me to take the quarry road. “It takes longer, but it’s usually empty,” she’d say. She is always on time. ALWAYS. Sometimes even before the manager. I’d always laugh away my walk of guilt for being late and say my car can’t handle such a rough road. What does she know? She drives a Jeep. These long unpaved hills wreak havoc on my tires - or should I say my dad’s tires; it’s his car.
I haven’t moved in ten minutes.
Whenever we’re stuck in traffic like this, my father, after cursing and bad-mouthing every driver taking a wrong turn or quickly passing him selfishly, would start ranting about how the government wants us to live like this. “They want us to keep paying for gas. It’s a calculated move. It’s all about the money.” he’d say.
Damn! I am running late. Maybe I’ll try the quarry road today. Only today. I’ll drive slowly.
So I take the first opening on my left (I’d say an opening, but it’s more like someone hammered down the cement that was creating a block separating two lanes of the road so cars can make illegal U-turns.) I speed up. I don’t want to block the road for the cars coming from the opposite direction, but I already hear their beeps; the cars' special way of saying: “move out of the way asshole.” I take the farthest left of the road. I am basically driving on the outskirts until I get to the opening leading to the quarry.
You feel it first when the tiny pebbles of the uncemented white street glaze your tires. It’s a steep downhill guarded by decaying hills where stray dogs usually house. I remember my dad’s warning if you ever go down that road, you are paying for new tires. I’ll drive as slow as I can. So far, no one is behind me. Some haven’t given up hope that the traffic will dissipate yet. Unlike me.
I make it down the hill in perfect condition, but as I turn right, I become trapped inside the ribcage of what once was a mountain. I am heading towards a valley. A valley shaped by bulldozers and excavators resting on the sides hibernating for another day of mining. The giant pale rocks on my sides are shading the morning sun ahead of me. I can see the back of a car making it out of the ribcage as I climb up a hill. There, the remnants of sunlight guide us, traffic-avoidant travelers, up the road. I make it out. There is still more road ahead of me.
As I turn right, following the car in front of me, my left eye glimpses the perfectly designed identical houses in the distance (colonial style as they say) standing across the mountain that is feeding them brick by brick.
Oh No! I got distracted. 5 minutes left now. Maybe I should speed up. Someone is coming from behind me, speeding, seconds and he will overtake me.
Maybe I can go faster.
The screws on his tire just went undone, but he is still driving, another mr. goody-two-shoes who doesn’t want to be late. All that he has done is stir up dirt and create a dusty fog. He has no respect for the quarry law; drive slowly.
I am almost at the end. I feel my wheels sigh as they hug the paved road. From up here, you can see in your rearview mirror that traffic hasn’t calmed down. I’m almost there. I will be there just in time.