Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Hillside Strangler

Would the 34th President of the United States be happy if he knew that after he died, his last name was hijacked and used as a label for the worst stretch of expressway known to mankind?

I-290, The Eisenhower, the IKE, the worst highway of all time, whatever you want to call it, this stretch of concrete with white lines painted on it continues to ruin my life and lives of others in the greater Chicagoland area on a daily basis.

When I think Eisenhower, I don't think about the decorated war veteran and past leader of our country, I think pain, I think anguish, but most of all I think about 30 miles of parking lot.

Have you ever driven on an expressway that takes 20 minutes to drive to work one day and an hour and change the next? I hadn't until I met Mr. Eisenhower.

While sitting in the midst of gridlock at 4:45 in the afternoon, I've often wondered why they didn't name this particular stretch of paved chaos after someone horrible like Hitler or Steve Gutenberg. Not that I would ever compare Hitler to Steve Gutenberg, but you've got to admit those Police Academy movies are pretty fucking horrible. And I know you're going to say "but what about that cop who used to make all those funny noises? he was awesome." And my reply is, "Yeah he made funny noises, but what's so original about that? So did the 1987 Pinto without a muffler that I was driving behind this morning.

The Hillside Strangler
Now that's not to say that the Eisenhower doesn't have nicknames to describe the pain and anguish that rush hour commuters deal with on a daily basis. One of the most infamous sections of the Eisenhower is affectionately called by some the "Hillside Strangler," or the "Strangler" for short.

"The Strangler" has been named one of the top 20 worst bottlenecks in the country, and I get to experience it 5 days a week. The term, originally coined in 1977 by the Los Angeles media to name a particularly brutal serial killer was later adopted by hoards of commuters from the Western Suburbs of Chicago to fully describe the pain they go through on a daily basis. The "Hillside Strangler" is a part of the Eisenhower that passes through a town called Hillside, IL where 3 major Chicago expressways all merge into three narrow lanes of bonfided Eisenhower Expressway creating a "strangling" effect.

Apparently they spent 97.5 million dollars in the summer of 2001 on a construction project to "unstrangle" the strangler, but you could have fooled me because not only is it still "strangled," but if you look around during rush hour you can actually see the drivers in their cars trying to strangle themselves as well.

Newsradio 780
So as of late I've become an avid listener of newsradio because it's the only way to save yourself from the grips of the Strangler. In particular Chicago's infamous Newsradio 780, with traffic and weather together on the 8's, which is 7:08, 7:18, 7:28, 7:38 and so on... in case you don't understand things like numbers. I listen to these hideous traffic reports every morning and afternoon where in two minutes the traffic reporter Joe Collins spews out as many roads and expressways and their travel times as fast as he can possibly get em' out of his mouth, and manages to effectively give that dipshit with the mustache from the old micro machines commercials a run for his money.

Every major roadway in Chicago is nicknamed after a somewhat historically significant dead guy. (I.E. The Stevenson, the Edens, The Kennedy, The Dan Ryan, The Bishop Ford, The Reagan and the Motherfucking Eisenhower), and if you aren't paying attention for even a tenth of a second you miss your travel times, which always conveniently seems to happen when a truck of pineapples has jackknifed or there's a fiery auto wreck with an el camino and a family mini van just as you've passed the exit to the side street that would have saved you from the ever dreaded 60 minute delay. And if you are really lucky and there's a particularly horrible traffic jam, then for the last 20 seconds of the report you're greeted by the guy in the "traffic copter" who starts chuckling and says, "the Eisenhower looks like a complete and utter disaster from up here folks. I'm sure glad I'm flying up here in this helicopter and not sitting down there in that parking lot called an expressway with you motherfuckers."

Then sandwiched in between these informative hyper speed whirlwind of travel times that are guaranteed to make you confused, angry, frustrated, fatigued and downright insane, there are informative commercials for 401 K plans and mortgage brokers when all I'd really like to hear is a commercial with some chick with a seductive voice talking about beer or maybe a really stiff drink.

Somebody shoot me.

Hillside Strangler Relief is Here
Urban Dictionary: Hillside Strangler
Crime Library: The Hillside Stranglers
Biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower