Three errands in under an hour and a half. Time would be tight but manageable.
After a stop in Pikesville, I took Reisterstown Road toward the Owings Mills Mall. In the distance, a siren wailed. Instinctively I knew it meant trouble. Should I continue on Reisterstown or take the Beltway to Interstate 795? An accident on Reisterstown could cause significantly delay while 795 is a clear stretch of highway. And then there was the matter of reputation. Past experience made the choice a no-brainer.
On any given day, at least in my neck of the woods, traffic on Reisterstown Road is a hair shy of unbearable, nay, more often than not it is mind-numbingly excruciating, and therefore to be avoided at all costs. Approaching a green light on Reisterstown and a red light to enter the Beltway, a random thought popped into my brain. The green light could be a sign of synchronized green lights to come. In that split second, I decided the thought was irrational and entered the turn lane. A brief stop and then smooth sailing to the mall.
Or so I thought. No sooner did I merge onto 795 than did all three lanes of traffic come to a standstill. I don't know if you've ever traveled that stretch of 795, but once you exit the Baltimore Beltway you can't exit until Owings Mills Boulevard, a good mile or so away. In the middle of the day, a sudden traffic jam could mean only one thing: a car accident. I was trapped.
Sirens and more sirens. One, two, then three fire engines screaming past stalled vehicles, followed in quick succession by an ambulance, three police cars, and yet another emergency vehicle. The site of the accident was only yards away, but with only one lane of traffic moving past a blockade of emergency flares it took over twenty-five minutes to reach. A more gruesome scene would be hard to imagine. Police and fire fighters worked feverishly around the area. Against the guardrail, a crumpled red sports car rested upside down on its hood. Someone lay splayed on the highway. Emergency personnel knelt nearby. More than that, I couldn't bear to rubberneck.
Ask not for whom the siren tolls. It tolls for thee.
Oh, the irony. I lost the same amount of time, perhaps more, as hitting every red light on Reisterstown Road. That wailing siren - the one off in the distance as I entered the crossroad of Reisterstown and the Beltway - was speeding toward 795. If I had stopped at the traffic light a minute longer, the siren would have sailed right past me to the Beltway. I would have seen it enter 795 and thought twice about following, maybe even circled back to Reisterstown Road.
Who knows whether that would have made any difference, or if staying on Reisterstown would have saved time. I like to think I was destined to lose that time no matter which route I chose, like the universe wanting to teach me a lesson for trying to cram too much into too little time. If I've learned anything from today's experience, it's that I should give myself more leeway when it comes to time and pay closer attention to intuition.
Thankfully, the time loss was inconsequential. But images of a horrific car accident won't easily fade.