Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Robbie's Second Mass Observation (Car)


Today a friend picked up my roommates and I from an apartment complex in the area of Austin known as “West Campus.” The apartment was at 25th and Leon Street, and it was called “The Block.” We needed a ride because we took a UT shuttle from our place on Riverside (1300 Crossing Place) on Friday night that didn’t run on Saturday, and so we had no transportation home. We could have taken a taxi, but we wanted to spend as little money as possible, since we were going out to eat on the way home. It was raining constantly when she arrived at about 1:15 PM. When we got into the car, we talked about how it was difficult to see the lanes on the road, especially with the pooling rainwater. She had parked on the wrong side of the road thinking it to be a one-way street.

We weren’t sure what our destination was at first. We all wanted food but no one could decide where to go. Driving in the rain is stressful enough on its own; with no direction it’s even worse. At a stop sign, we waved the car stopped across from us through the intersection, to buy time to figure out where we wanted to go. I ended up making a snap decision on where to eat, and we pulled into the parking lot. Unfortunately we had to park in a spot that wasn’t very close to the door, so we got wet as we made our way inside.

When we were finished with our meal, at around 2:30 PM, our friend (the driver) offered to bring the car up to the door so that we didn’t have to walk in the rain. As we drove home, standing water on the road and reduced visibility forced the driver to slow down. She was afraid of hydroplaning. The other traffic was also moving slower than normal. The constant drizzle and swinging windshield wipers had a hypnotizing effect, which grew stronger in conjunction with the grey light emanating from the clouds. Large puddles on the road became distractions as cars plowed through them in giant splashes. When traffic lights changed from red to green, most cars hesitated before cautiously accelerating. Traffic on the highway was thick, moving steadily forward at a moderate speed. We merged in without any problem. It seemed that most drivers chose to use the highway despite the inclement weather. It did not appear that the weather impacted the number of people on the road—traffic seemed average or perhaps slightly above average.

As a passenger I did feel slightly more nervous than usual, simply because I wasn’t in control of the car and wasn’t sure how experienced my friend was at driving in rain. I kept my attention focused on the road, trying to be prepared for any accident or unexpected situation that might arise. I did not see anything like that happen on our trip. I was slightly annoyed by the slow speed that the rainy conditions demanded, because it increased our travel time by at least fifty percent. We arrived home at about 3:00 PM.

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