No turn, U-turn, Don’t run that light! Don’t you feel, as I often do, that traffic is hazardous to your health, your car, and your peace of mind? How much easier it would be to have your own private motorway. Or an invisible cushion of air that protects from the vagaries and distraction of others in their own motor vehicles. Even better, a system in your car that automatically takes a picture of someone else doing something stupid and forwards it to the proper authorities…because there never seems to be a cop around when a mini-van speeds past you at 45 miles an hour in a 30 mph one, crosses three lanes of traffic at the last minute with no signal, or chicken-races you in an attempt to beat you to the one-lane road that used to be a two lane road. Aside from the occasional desire to see just who IS the chicken in the Merge 250, especially since the other car seems to be newer and shinier than mine, I usually just mutter under my breath and let them have their way. After all, maybe there’s an emergency, they’re late for something important, or maybe they’re just expecting me to give in. Isn’t that a scary thought? Using your car on a power trip? But if someone needs this meaningless victory to feel good about themselves, who am I to squash their hopes and dreams of one-upmanship?
OK. I came to driving later in life than most, and I tend to still remember those pesky Rules of the Road, but it seems to me that if you’re not sure of where you’re going or when you need to be there planning might be the answer. What you say? Check how long it will take and what streets are the best to use? But where’s the fun? Well, I live in a college town. On most weekends during the fall and winter as well as August and May we are inundated with drivers from other cities and other states. While some of them have been through the C-U tangle of one-way streets and single lanes shared with bike lanes, many of them are here for the first time. The seasoned visitors should know to plan, but some of them don’t. The result can be fender benders, late arrivals. Add locals on their way to the same venue and it’s a circus of frustration and comedy. I stay home. I’ve learned to treasure those weeks when the campus is empty…traffic on Green Street is doable. And you can find a place to park!
My point here, if you’ve managed to wade through the traffic jam of my rationale, is that perhaps we’ve come to think of cars as more than just machines to take us where we want to go…at the proper speed and with consideration for others on the road. Today the car is…and stop me if I’m wrong…. a status symbol, a “chick” magnet (think teenage showoffs), a back seat playground for the kids we haul to school and soccer and dance class, and the one machine we use every day that can kill us if we’re not careful. Think of that the next time you’re on the road. Any road. The whole idea is to get where you’re going, right?