Sunday, August 14, 2005

Information Seeking Behavior in Context: Mysterious Highway Closure

So yesterday I was driving along at 125 miles per hour in a borrowed sports car. It was fabulous, except for the traffic of course. But the sensation of speed is a lot of fun. But I saw a CALTRANS sign that read: I-5 Closed Over Grapevine. I wasn't sure what that meant, so being Safety Neal, I slowed down to 100 miles per hour.

An hour later the entire freeway came to a complete stop. You could creep along at a pace of 10 meters every fifteen minutes, but people walk faster. Traffic was effectively stopped out in the middle of nowhere.

I turned on my radio and surfed the AM bands to hear something about a Hazardous Material spill on a country station. So I kept listening to country music and it was confirmed.

Since I was burning gas and my car could overheat, I pulled over and turned the engine off.

Some people call me hyperactive, but I like to think of myself as ambitious. When there are no other options, I try to wait patiently, but I generally try to find something to do like reading or taking an inventory of supplies.

I wanted to know why all four lanes of traffic were stopped. I began my research by chatting with some other individuals and heard stories of an explosive danger from a trucker. I was

I called out twice for information but was unable to reach anyone before the cell network overloaded and sent began sending out a signal that the network was busy.

After an hour, I strapped on my camelbak and grabbed my flat-brimmed hat and went for a walk.

I walked several miles and approached a retired couple. The y called a relative who was watching the news. According to the news, it was radioactive material that had spilled on the Highway. No one was going south. If you made it all the way up to the front, they sent you back along I-5 North to Bakersfield.

As I walked back to my car frequently people would ask me the news. Another woman whose car had overheated had talked to AAA who were also advising that it was radioactive materials.

Unfortunately, the geography of Southern California is such that the only real alternate route for the I-5 is to go East at Bakersfield and head into the Mojave desert. At least that was the general consensus among those of use there using our maps for shade.

Two hours later a cop came by on a loudspeaker and told us to get back in our cars.

Then it was a slow start, but eventually it was off to the races again in a massive traffic jam headed for LA.

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