Commute Contemplation | Aerin Flaharty
Picture this. It’s 7:45 in the morning, and you’re stuck on Carmel Valley Road as your speedometer barely surpasses 5 miles per hour. You sit in your car, foot ever so slightly touching the gas and you’re left with only your thoughts wondering, “Could this morning get any worse?” Cars are honking. Rushed mothers and fathers cut you off in their Range Rovers to drop their priority kids at Pacific Trails Middle School down the road, and you’re just trying to make it to class on time for the first day this school year. If you’ve ever driven on the glorious two lane road that leads up to campus, you’d know that it’s not just a short little drive to school, it’s a big long drive to school that multiplies your ETA by four. And the student parking lot is just a whole other story. So why is it so hard to make it to school on time? What force is to be reckoned with to make the traffic gods stay on my side?
CCA used to stand alone. It was a brand new campus as of 2004, with some small residential condos nearby. What is now the overpopulated bustling education capital of San Diego used to be a calm quiet area. But it was only that way for so long. I grew up next to CCA. I used to ride my bike down the hill near the back of the gym as a little girl. Back then, that hill felt like a mountain. What is now the PHR Village was once a dirt lot, home to my favorite place to play and build forts with my neighbors. It was a mere horizon of brown and rocks and future knee scrapes, but it was also all I knew.
As I grew up, so did the area. First it was the Pacific Highlands Ranch Village and the grand opening of Rite Aid. Then it was Starbucks. And then to my surprise, a middle school. I’d finally be able to walk to school? I watched through my room as the construction started in 2012. And it never stopped. Right before my eyes was an entire world being built and I could see it all from my window. As the years went on Carmel Valley was developing. More people wanted to come into the area. Whether it was to grab a coffee at the village, to do their weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, or to get their nails done at Serenity, the area just kept growing more and more popular. And then came the Rec Center. From the view of my seventh grade English classroom I watched construction workers break the ground to start what would consist of skate parks, a huge grass field, a pump track, and small arrays of playgrounds. And it didn’t stop there. Dozens and dozens of apartments, small condos, and townhouse complexes were being built at the blink of an eye. It never seemed to end.
So flash forward to today. I’m sitting in my car on my way to school. Mind you, I said sitting and not driving because it’s practically impossible to even do that when you’re sitting in stop and go traffic for thirty minutes every morning. I’m sitting in my car on my way to school, and I wonder why it’s taking me way longer than it should be. But I understand it now. Carmel Valley grew. And maybe it’s just bad luck or maybe it’s whatever architect thought it would be a good idea to stick a 800 student middle school right behind a high school with a population of almost 3,000 students, with the only entrance being a two lane road. Or maybe it’s the fact that Carmel Valley has expanded from the small place I remembered it to once be as a kid, but I’d still like to put some blame on that architect. So while I’m happy that this area is able to provide for so many people, I also can’t help but feel frustrated that I’m late to class every other day.