Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wrong Way Driver (That's Me)

So usually I try to leave for work at 6:45 because my shift is supposed to start at 7:30. Most days I end up leaving closer to 6:50, and lately I have been leaving at like 6:55 (even though I changed my alarm to get up earlier, for some reason even though I set my alarm earlier I seem to finish getting ready later… not sure how that works. Maybe subconsciously I am thinking I have more time so I am getting ready slower?) So this morning at 6:50 I wasn’t even dressed yet! Which is really weird since normally that’s when I am brushing my teeth and gathering my stuff to leave. I didn’t even make breakfast or do anything extra or unusual today so it was especially odd to me. But I got dressed brushed my hair and teeth and without make-up headed out the door. I texted both Pauli and Rita to let them know I was running about 15 min late so that Pauli would know If she got there before me (she starts at 8, but sometimes gets in early) that I was in fact coming and that Rita would know I was ok since she usually gets there around the same time as me. I was driving…. So than right as I was passing Janss Rd on the 23 the traffic was slowing. I figured it was the normal rush hour slowing due to the merge for the 101 (since it goes down to one lane) I normally don’t get too much traffic since I am on the road early enough. … … … …

So I was slowing down and then I heard it on the radio…. Hazmat spill on the 23 SB at Thousand Oaks Blvd just before the interchange for the 101! Really?? Oh no… so I was in the area just next to the off ramp where there is that little triangle area that people cross all the time but technically you’re passed the exit at that point. I was tempted to go but form the initial report on the radio it sounded like there was still like one lane open so I figured it would be slow but I could pass. Not true… I ended up going forward a little bit but that was it… cars started backing up on the shoulder and exiting at Janss. I at this point had gotten passed the triangle. I was not willing to take the risk of getting a ticket or anything so I waited it out. Than I noticed people started backing DOWN the on-ramp for Janss! Around that bend too! They are nutz! I mean I know it sucks to be late and to be stuck etc but you can’t see what’s coming UP the ramp around that bend! I was still waiting patiently and thinking I hope they don’t cause an accident! At one point I noticed a CHP officer with lights on go down Janss off ramp. Than a few minutes later a whole bunch of cars had made u-turns and drove down the on ramp. I thought maybe they had stopped traffic and were telling cars to do that, so I figured when I got close enough if there was in fact an officer directing traffic I would follow their lead and go down the on ramp to go through T.O. to the 101. Than the cars in front of me did not go down. So I continued to wait and cars started coming UP the ramp, they obviously paid no attention to the radio before leaving so I knew they were now going to be stuck too and nobody else was going to be backing or driving down the on ramp!

So in the meanwhile I was texting Pauli to let her know what I was up to. And let her know that I was traveling at the speed of traffic which was of course 0 mph. I let her know that I was stuck between the last exit I passed and the spill itself (according to radio broadcasts) and that I would be in as soon as I could get going… than I noticed in my rear view mirror the cars behind me started disappearing. They were backing up and going down Janss. There was a CHP officer walking from car to car telling them to back up make a u-turn and exit at Janss. He would start in lane 1 and go across to each car one at a time and have them do that. They had done a traffic break and coned it off so that the cars were all forced to exit at Janss. So it got to my turn and I got to back up, make a u-turn and drive the wrong way on the freeway only for a few seconds and then turn and exit from Janss. So need less to say by 8:15 I was not even 20 miles from my house even though I was out the door around 7 am! It was kinda fun to be able to tell people I drove the wrong way on the freeway in front of CHP officers who didn’t try to stop me!

As it turns out from reports (I googled it later at work to make sure it was cleared for my drive home) the spill was reported just after 7 am, which is normally about the time I am getting to the interchange since it takes me about 10 min to get onto the freeway from my house. So had I not been running late I would have been right there right about the time of the spill, or just a smidge ahead of it if I had not been running late today. So I am thankful for that. It was reported as a bucket in the freeway with smoke coming from it. The report on Ventura county star online (vcstar.com) it was muriatic acid which is used in treating swimming pools. They think that the impact from the vehicle it fell (presumably) from cause it to react, creating a small chemical cloud. So when the first officer got there he naturally stopped traffic and reported the hazmat. It went from there! The rest is Renee rebelling history! I am just glad nothing serious happened and that (to my knowledge) nobody was injured.

It surprises me though how many people were so ignorant and in such a hurry that they had to risk themselves and everyone else driving recklessly to try and exit before CHP directed them. There could have been several accidents with the people driving down the on ramp both forward and in reverse… or on the shoulder or anything else. Then to top it all off to see people’s comments on the vcstar article really blew me away. Some guy claiming that CHP blew it out of proportion closing the entire freeway because of one container of chemical… um who knew if would have been something more dangerous than the muriatic acid? Or if the wind could’ve caused a bigger issue or anything! Some people just don’t seem to care! I am glad they did all they did even if I ended up being an hour and a half late to work! I made it alive and without needing medical treatment!