The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Bad Hair Day

I drove to Jupiter today to meet a client. For all that happened to me, it would have been better had I driven to the planet Jupiter instead.

Leaving the house I was already in precarious mood—I had just told Spring something she suspected about her job but didn't want to hear and for that I was feeling a bit bummed out as I left to meet the client (who happens to be a friend of mine). I'm even more bummed out when I find that I have no map of Palm Beach County in the car. I have one of Dade County (Miami). I have one of Broward County. But my Palm Beach County map must still be at Condo Conner (since I obviously didn't return the map from the last time I scanned it). But the directions were simple enough that I thought I could do without.

Now Jupiter is an hours drive north but since it was still the early afternoon I expected the traffic along I-95 to be rather smooth sailing.

About five miles up, I-95 turned into a parking lot. As I was inching my way over to get off I was seriously thinking about heading back home and from there, calling my client and cancelling. Other than computers not working as they should, traffic is the one thing that angers me the fastest.

I managed to get off at the next available exit (Atlantic Avenue for those of you who might know the area) headed east. My thought was to take this to the next major north/south road and take that for a while, but as I drove east the neighborhoods turned more towards the economically challenged and I figured I'd be better taking a north/south road further west.

Having made my U-turn, going back under I-95 (and seeing more people pour onto the north bound parking lot) I finally found another north/south road to take (Congress Blvd for those that care). I drove along this for quite a few miles, trying to route around whatever damage was blocking up I-95.

By the time I eventually returned back to I-95 the traffic northbound was flowing freely again thankfully, but the detour meant I was already going to be about half an hour late. Thankfully, the client (my friend) would be understanding.

Now, I need to get off at a particular exit (Indiantown Road). It's not an area I'm familiar with so I have to pay close attention. As I'm driving, I see two signs: “Indiantown Road: 2” and “Jupiter: Next 2 exits.” About two miles down the road I see: “Exit 59A: Jupiter” and “Exit 59B: Okachobee.” Nothing at all about Indiantown Road.

Of course, once I pass those two exits, I get this rather bad feeling. Sure enough, about another mile down the road I see: “Welcome to Martin County!” Indiantown Road, and Jupiter, the town the road runs through, are in Palm Beach County, not Martin County.

Bad enough.

But at this part of I-95, the exits are significally far apart. “Next Exit: You did fill up the tank, right?” apart. I've had this feeling before and it's not pleasant. So now I find myself headed towards Ft. Pierce, another hour north. I should have turned around when I had the chance, I think to myself.

Ten miles later, I get a chance to make a U-turn at Hobe Sound, Florida. Ten miles later I'm getting off at the exit I should have.

So I'm an hour late to my meeting, but hey, no problem; these things happen. So I'm there to help my client (and friend) with his website.

Only my client forgot that I don't do Windows.

And he's running IIS under Windows 2000 and using Windows XP for a workstation.

And he doesn't have administrative rights to his router.

So there's not a whole lot I can do.

But we do have a nice lunch and discuss some of the things he's working on, and I do help him a bit with the layout of his network, and he does pay me for at least making the trip so it isn't a total loss.

So we're done by 5:00 pm.

5:00 pm.

And at a minimum, I have an hour's drive home.

Under good conditions.

Like 1:00 am.

Not 5:00 pm.

It looks like the best bet would be to take the Florida Turnpike home.

I look in my wallet: a lone dollar bill is sitting there.

My client gives me a handfull of change to cover the tolls. And fortunately, Indiantown Road has a exit on the Turnpike. And this far north, I-95 and the Turnpike are very close to each other.

I say goodbye to my client, and head west.

By the time I notice that I'm on the southbound exit to I-95 it's too late—I can't get over. So I find myself heading south on I-95 at 5:10 pm.

I have no map of Palm Beach County. Which means I don't know where the next exit to the Turnpike is. I figure I'm screwed anyway, so I'll take I-95 until it turns into a parking lot and take it from there.

I'm still north of West Palm Beach when I-95 turns into a parking lot. I take the next exit which is some random numbered street, and head west. My thought is to go as west as possible, maybe out to US-441 where the traffic shouldn't be that great, and take that south.

But as I cross a north/south road I'm only vaugly familiar with (Haverhill Road) and continue west, I realize that US-441 doesn't actually make it this far north—it turns west a few miles south of me somewhere. Another problem: the road turns rather rural and I'm the only person travelling west at this point. All the traffic I see is headed back east. Great, I thought. I'm going to end up at Lake Okeechobee at this rate. Lake Okeechobee being that large lake in the middle of Florida you see on maps. That large lake in the middle of Florida you see is also one hour west of where I'm at.

And it doesn't look like there's anyplace to turn around any time soon. So I keep going. Resigned to my fate of ending up at Lake Okeechobee.

Only I don't get to Lake Okeechobee. The road turns north (into Jog Road, which is odd, because it doesn't turn south, even though in Boca Raton this far west there is a Jog Road) and leads straight into a garbage processing plant.

I'm saved!

I turn around, head back east and at the first north/south road (Haverhill Road) I turn south.

And hit stop and go traffic.

This continues until I find a road that's far enough south that I know US-441 hits, and turn west again (Forest Hill Blvd), and finally hit US-441 about an hour and a half after I left Jupiter.

I'm headed through Green Acres (which is not the place I want to be) and marvelling at all the contruction on US-441 and on both sides. Commercial properties, planned communities, apartment blocks, road construction. And it's not just Green Acres—it's all along US-441 as I'm headed south back towards Boca Raton. It's rather disquieting actually. I remember, perhaps ten years ago, maybe as much as fifteen, that US-441 along here was very rural. Drive half an hour to an hour north of the Broward/Palm Beach County line and you're driving along farming country. Now it's all in the hands of developers.

By the time I got home (two hours after I left Jupiter) I was all bent out of shape. Way out of shape.

… What I saw was the majority of property owned not by humans but by corporations. Sure, I saw homes, but the majority were in “communities” like Coral Applebay or Banyan Creeks or Mons Olympus (“if you have to ask, you can't afford it”) where nominally you own the home but more likely than not you own a volume of space and property values uberalles prevails. You are paying for the priviledge of essentially renting.

Then there were the apartments I saw—endless runs of apartment buildings between Jupiter and Boca Raton. And Century Village, the paragon of Condo Commandos. What must it be like to buy a place there where most residents leave in hand carved pine boxes priced at $20,000?

I finally snapped I think. I got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on I-95 at 1:30 in the afternoon! Last I heard (and this was probably a good five years ago now) there were 5,000 people moving to Florida either daily or weekly and today it felt as if all 5,000 hit South Florida. Insane.

I found myself driving on 441 south. I seem to remember years ago that 441 was a two lane road in rural South Florida by the time you hit Palm Beach County but today I found it under heavy construction from Forest Hill (just south of West Palm Beach) southward. Housing communitities, apartments and commercial properties where sprouting along both sides of the road under the hands of speculatively greedy developers no doubt.

I want nothing better than to get the hell out of here.

Only I don't know where to get the hell to….

I want the flying cars, damnit! I want the 20 hour work weeks. I want giant wheel shaped space stations! I want a Gernsbackian future! Is that asking too much? Especially in the light of barely drivable cars, 80 hour work weeks (“and you'll like it too, god damn you!”), small soda-can shaped space station (note! singular!) and a Gibsonian future looming over all of us.

From email I sent to Hoade.

I'm feeling better now …

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