On my way to work that night, I passed Patriot Lake, at Galloway's municipal complex. I felt a twinge of jealousy as I saw the carnival-like atmosphere interwoven into the various demonstration booths with revelers full of civic and American pride participating.
We inched along for forty minutes. That's when I noticed that my gas tank was on empty. It was a long time till the next exit. When I could squeeze by, I drove on the shoulder to get off. After filling up, I saw a roadway running parallel to the interstate. I only needed to go four miles north to avoid the big traffic jam. But after one mile, the road to the I-95 on-ramp came up. In the twilight, without knowledge of an alternative way around the problem, I got on...and immediately came to a stop. We crept along. On two occasions, we had to move aside for emergency trucks.
This must have been one horrible accident because it was at least two hours since we saw the first digital sign for it. And a fire truck and an ambulance were still en route from a place called Rosedale.
The situation got worse, it was now dark and we were at a complete stop. I had the car in park and soon turned off the engine. Like a dating service, people got out of their cars in the harsh hot breeze to meet, compare notes and complain. When I looked backwards, I could see what seemed like the whole country, in the form of headlights, backed-up to the horizon. This was indeed a national night, in...our cars. Even worse, looking forward, I couldn't even see the interstate.
An hour later, people up ahead came running back to their cars. At first we were inching but soon we were rolling and stopping. At the crest of a hill, we finally saw our three lanes merging onto I-95. And in the extreme distance, I saw the beginning of the end, flashing lights.
I guess we had been at a complete stop because they temporarily closed the only open lane so work crews could safely open a second lane. When we got close enough to "rubberneck," we saw no crushed cars, the worst was over. Most of the remaining thirty emergency vehicles were filing away. On the wet roadway, firemen were coiling their hoses and stowing gear as the army of rescue personnel encouraged us weary motorists to keep moving.
The usual two and a quarter hour drive back from Baltimore took five and half hours. In the thirteen and a half hours from the time we left home until we returned, we were out of the car for a mere three hours.
Sometimes we need a kick in the head like a National Night Out, to remind us of the greatness and bravery involved in being a policeman, fireman, an EMT or be in the military. Also, because we need the assistance of civil servants so infrequently, it's easy to forget all the good they do.
If you still take these bastions of selflessness for granted or you're too self-centered to care about anything but your own convenience, please remember what a wise man once said; it is far better to be stuck in a terrible traffic...than to be the cause of it.
Next year, I'll meet you at the National Night Out. In the mean time, please support your local men and women in blue.
Before knowing the true spirit of the National Night Out, (in my November 15, 2010 blog, "GETTING HOOKED-UP BY NEW YORK'S FINEST,)" I mistakenly mentioned that there should be a day commemorating the police in a manner similar to Veteran's Day.