Every time I watch the beginning of the movie Office Space, I feel the frustration that Samir experiences as he’s sitting in his car stuck in traffic hell. I also know too well the look of annoyance on Peter’s face as he moves from his stagnant lane to the fast-moving one only to have them switch roles just as he arrives in line. I’ll admit I’ve used my share of swear words when, for example, I’m stuck behind and next to cars that are both going the same speed and I can’t get around either. It’s at times like that I wish I could flash a sign to them asking if ONE OF THEM would speed the **enter expletive here** up!! As I was driving back from Arlington this weekend, I too experienced many of the same emotions, and it got me thinking about something I refer to as carma and traffic math.
I’m sure we’ve all witnessed carma. Typically, it only happens to other drivers. For example, there’s the person who you’d been stuck behind for miles only to finally get around them. They then try to not only pass you, but the cars in front of you as well. The problem is, they’re now stuck behind a big semi truck and apparently no one else wants to let them in. Gotta love teamwork!
Now traffic math is something that’s always baffled me. You don’t typically see this in smaller towns, but it is definitely alive and well in the Austin area. Thanks to the magic of GPS, we can now find out how many miles it is to get from point A to point B. Let’s say our destination should take 20 minutes to get there. When you factor in traffic math that length of time can be shorter or longer despite taking the same route. Variables that affect traffic include time of day, day of the week, and other drivers who have somehow avoided the pitfalls of carma…so far. What would normally take 20 minutes could end up taking double that time in some cases.
I have also found that there are several things that other drivers can’t quite get the hang of despite the rules being very simple. First on the list are stop signs. For some reason these confuse many people. Often you’ll come across those who don’t feel the rules or etiquette apply to them, while others apparently need an invitation to go on their appropriate “turn.” Secondly, the concept of merging is something that is baffling to many drivers. I think of it as shuffling a deck of cards. As one card from the left stack falls, it is followed by a card from the right. This process continues until all the cards have been used. Seems simple right?! Finally, when in traffic, it is best to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you in case they come to a quick stop. Now…FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, that distance does not have to be equivalent to four football fields!!! These drivers are the reason traffic exists in the first place. After all, traffic wouldn’t occur if the person in the front would just move!!
I will admit when in a hurry, I tend to be more like Samir while driving. I always talk, out loud, to the cars around me, expressing my frustration at the predicament in which I’ve been placed. When on a long road trip, however, I tend to provide entertainment for those around me. It is at these times you can find me both singing and dancing in my car as I continue with the stop-and-go traffic knowing that I will eventually arrive at my destination. I’m still hoping for the day that either flying cars or teleporters are invented. It looks like science has their work cut out for them. I guess in the meantime, I’ll just deal with constant and never-ending road construction, traffic math, and the invention of new and colorful metaphors to call those around me as I drive to point B.