The only way to make traffic better is to accept that we’re all going to die
Note: I am attempting to blog once a day (weekdays only, let’s not go crazy) for the next month about issues I think are incredibly important. This is my second post.
A few years ago, there was a patch of construction on the highway I take to visit my parents. It’s an area of Illinois south of Joliet, just outside the Chicago suburbs, about two hours away from the nearest major city, Bloomington.
So, it’s in the middle of god damn nowhere.
Normally this part of the highway narrows down from three lanes to two as you cross over a bridge, stays that way for a couple of miles and then opens back up into three lanes. When the construction was underway, however, the three lanes were reduced to two about a mile before where it would normally switch to two — which itself was was now reduced to only one lane.
This made life hell. I can’t tell you how much time I wasted over SEVERAL years sitting there, stuck in a pointless traffic jam.
In an ideal world — which I dream of often — people drive with a collective mindset. Rather than racing ahead of one another, speeding to where one lane ends before muscling their car in front of others who have been stuck in the correct lane waiting for a ridiculous amount of time because assholes like this fucker in the Ford Taurus to your left thinks that they can just bypass all the unwritten rules of society and cut me off like oh Christ heaven forbid that they should wait an extra couple minutes when — OK you get the point. You’ve likely been there.
It’s an indisputable fact that if everyone drove less selfishly and took their turn — merging over at the right time, letting people in one by one and just cruising along at the same speed, basically all our traffic problems would be solved.
If you’re really interested in some traffic theory, I recommend the video below which touches on how traffic should work and how robots will solve it all eventually, maybe. More on robots in a later post.
Of course, we all kind of know this is how traffic should work, but we still choose to recklessly speed past people, jump ahead of lines built around exits and force our way into lanes. I do it far too often, and I HATE assholes like me.
There’s only really one explanation for why we choose to ignore what’s in our best interest when it comes to traffic — the impending threat of death.
We’re all going to die. We only have a limited amount of time here on this planet, and being stuck in traffic is a real shitty way to spend it.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the average Chicago driver spent 114 hours stuck in traffic jams in 2015. This figure doesn’t account for all the other time we spend driving or commuting wherever the hell we’re all going either, so as you can imagine, you probably see a lot of your life slip by in a car.
114 hours! That’s multiple days out of your life wasted.
So, why death? Only in a traffic jam you can truly feel the seconds slipping away from you. Only between those bumpers can you really feel the finality of your time on earth on a day-to-day basis. Sure, the costs may seem low upon reflection. You may not make it to work on time, or arrive home later than you would have liked. But it’s the stark finality of feeling that time and the possibilities associated with it that makes you honk your horn or slam on your steering wheel like a lil’ baby.
You have no choice. You’re stuck there, in your vehicle, slowly inching forward.
Of course some people refuse to accept this fact and will frantically try to change lanes to gain some nonexistent time advantage. Doesn’t work. If thats part of your repertoire, cut it out, hot shot. We’re all moving at the same slow, dragging pace. You’re not going anywhere.
It only takes one person to create a traffic jam. One person who thought they saw an advantage, or felt they could shave off some time on their commute. They would have been — really, we all would be — better served if we accepted that there is a sunk cost to traffic. You have to commute and it will take this long. That’s time out of your life you can’t get back. Just ACCEPT IT.
You’re going to die. I’m going to die too. It’s OK! Let’s not waste any of the time we have in self-manufactured traffic jams.
Maybe download some podcasts. In my opinion, they make the existential nature of traffic jams seem somewhat tolerable.
Just don’t text.
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