They don’t call us roadies for nothing. It happens that we spend more time on the road than we do on the job, effectively cutting my minimum wage in half as I don’t get paid when I’m not physically working. It also happens that we get stuck in Belgium’s legendary traffic, which is some of the worst in the world.
It’s not so bad on an ordinary day, but if there’s an accident in a crucial place, which is roughly estimated, always, a 1-hour trip has been known to turn into 4 hours. And don’t think you’ll get a cent before you arrive on the job and get hammering: When you get fucked in traffic, you get fucked hard.
There are 2 types of driver I travel with. I don’t own a car so I’m always the passenger, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but there are the guys who deal with it, and there are those who deal with it poorly. The latter has their day ruined.
I don’t want your day ruined too, so here’s how to deal with Belgian traffic when you’re a roadie or anything else:
1. Deal with it.
Seriously, shut the fuck up and get over it. Complaining won’t help. Frustration won’t speed things up. Honking will not solve the problem. If your passengers aren’t irritated already, your behavior does a far better job at that than the Brussels peripherique. And that’s saying a lot.
2. Let them know.
“Hey. I’m stuck in traffic. It’s really bad and I’ll be hopelessly late. I apologize for this random happenstance that I have no control over.”
-“That is perfectly okay and also have a puppy when you arrive. You are a hero. And a patriot. And a hero.”
If your colleagues don’t understand completely and support you in the shit that you’re in, there are two options:
A- They’re a bunch of inconsiderate dicks and you should consider changing jobs maybe.
B- You are always late and traffic is just your excuse this day. You’re an asshole and should consider changing jobs -and habits- MAYBE.
Alleviating yourself of the stress that the others have wondering where you are, is a first step towards a stress-free jam.
3. Get comfortable.
Stop eating your steering wheel and turn on that radio. If you’re any sort of human being, you came prepared in the form of an extensive music database and a bunch of post-its with conversation subjects.
Chill. The ugliness of the highway has its own charm. Play with your gps if your balls (or labia I dunno) is not an option. Text a (potential) lover. Flirt with your colleague regardless if you fall into their sexual interest, because flirting stagehands are funny as fuck.
This obviously does not apply if you’re a driver.
4 hours of sleep can easily be extended to 8 if you sleep both ways. Whether you’re climbing or not, that matters.
Keep in mind, your driver might like some company. If his only passenger is having a pool party in the land of nod, it might suck for him. On the other hand, he gets paid to drive so fuck him. No need to fight sleep if the only difference to the atmosphere in the car is the visibility of your eyelids.
If there are any other passengers, I often ask them to rate their tiredness on a scale of 1-10. Lowest score gets to ride shotgun to entertain the pilot, highest (generally me because of my freejazz biorhythm) gets to crash on the bench.
5. Know the road.
There is a decent road that goes from Ghent and goes right between Sint-Niklaas and Aalst, continuing through the middle point between Brussels and Antwerp. Fuck me if I know where it is or what it’s called, that’s not my job. But it’s there and the occasional savvy driver can save us hours of traffic jam with an educated gamble.
If you have the money to invest in a decent gps system, you’ll earn it back in gas money. Either way, have a road map in the car. A good one. Chinese-drill your copilot into knowing how to use it. Try to know where you are at any given moment and don’t drive blindly, lest you end up in the wrong location sooner or later.
Belgian roads, unlike the American or German ones, are a terrible place to be. They’re narrow, crowded and have a lot of shitty drivers. Deal with that, too. And voila, if you’re a roadie, your job satisfaction just went up by 32%.