Any of you who know me, know that I’m hardly what you would call a man of explosive temperament. Quite the opposite, in fact: I’m kind of hard to piss off.
If you had been in the car with me on the way home from work this evening, however, you would have seen a different side of me altogether. I was the Incredible Hulk. I was Mr. Hyde. I was the evil Jim Carrey from Me, Myself and Irene. Not that I saw that movie, but I can tell from the poster that there was an evil one. If you had been sitting next to me, you would have been in serious danger of me puncturing your skull with MIND BULLETS! (that’s telekinesis, Kyle.)
Nothing causes my reactor to melt down quite like being stuck in traffic, especially traffic that’s obviously been caused by an accident. I ended up taking forty minutes to go two and a half miles, all thanks to some dumb careless bastard whose vehicular wreckage I did not even get the small satisfaction of seeing. There is nothing more stressful to me than that feeling of:
- Being kind of low on gas, but not that low, and all of the sudden having to worry about running out because it’s taking you over twice as long to get home and you’re stuck between freeway exits.
- Smelling that awful smell of burning rubber? plastic? oil? coolant? and having to wonder whether it’s your car or the car of the poor sonofabitch in front of you.
- Seeing police cars stuck on the shoulder 200 yards behind you, unable to get to the accident because of all the assholes who are already on the shoulder, trying to sneak by the traffic jam.
- Hearing horns honk behind you, as if you’re the reason traffic is stopped for the next two miles solid. This one made me wish I had a nice cordless drill handy, so that I could get out of my car, walk over to the honk artist, and start drilling holes in his driver’s side door. And maybe his left leg.
So there I sat, barely moving, in the pouring rain, windows all fogged up because I turned off the A/C to conserve gas, thankful that I don’t have access to any nuclear missile launch codes, because in my rage I could have seen myself launching an unprovoked first strike against, oh, Honduras. (Why Honduras? I don’t know. Just be glad I don’t know the coordinates of *your * house.)
And I found myself reflecting that there is no situation that sums up the futility, frustration, impotence and general angst of the modern world more than being stuck in traffic. I’m serious. 6000 years of human civilization, of putting our collective genius into the pursuit of biggerfastercheapermoreefficient, for what? It took the human race 5000 years to progress from the wheel to the automobile, yet only 50 years to progress from the automobile to the spaceship, for what? So that a thousand people can have their whole fucking evenings derailed by one popped tire. I sat there, thinking of the cost: I saw two police cruisers and an ambulance, with the accompanying salaries and equipment and all the other overhead. I thought of all the wasted time for me and the other people in the traffic jam. How many of them were going to be late for work? How many late getting home? How many cars were going to overheat or run out of gas? All from one dumb collision.
When you think of it that way, driving negligently or recklessly (or intoxicated) is an extremely antisocial act, with potential consquences beyond even the risk of directly causing death, injury or property damage. Granted, given the rain and all the other factors, this may have been an “unavoidable collision,” but in my experience, “unavoidable” collisions happen more often to worse drivers.
Shameful as it is to admit, I found myself thinking *aarrrggh, I hope you died * about the person or people who caused the accident. As I zipped by the accident site in the clearing traffic, I amended that to I hope you lived, and they wrote you a huge ass ticket. Motherfucker.