Small Bits of Our Lives are Lost in Traffic

Another Sunday, another week asunder…

L.A is sleepily rising from Saturday night.

The breeze blows gently on the palm fronds outside, the smog stirs.

The roads are less busy. It’s Sunday. People are taking it easy.

I wish every day people took it easy.

Three stories down on Moorpark St. a young couple in cargoes and polo shirts cross the street, holding hands, their eyes softly shielded from the sun by aviators. The man’s shirt is meringue color. They’re not too much younger than me, I’m guessing ten years, so chances are good that at least one of them will live longer than me. My money’s on the girl.

It starts me thinking about the dilemmas we face. The threats to our existence.

My main concern is the environment.

Cars…

I live in L.A. I’m obsessed with cars. Traffic. The Ego Clash. The effect on the culture, on the psyche.

Watching the city from above you get the odd feeling we live in an ant farm.

The movements of cars are absorbed into their drivers and influence their mental states. When cars are unable to go anywhere, stuck in traffic, or stopped at long lights, their drivers become backed up emotionally, frustrated, we feel like caged wild animals — and in a way we are. When the cars do a lot of stop and go, with a bunch of lights and stop signs every couple of blocks, their drivers are antsy, craving to move freer. When cars are on open roads, where their movements are unimpeded, their drivers are happy.

The roads are sorta like your colon. They need to be open to function well.

Small bits of our lives are lost in traffic.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with traffic rotaries — you know, roundabouts — and the fact that L.A. doesn’t have many of them. I like rotaries and hate stop signs. Stop signs are bad on your engine and bad on your gas mileage. L.A is plagued with stop signs. It says something about this country that we chose the fascist stop sign over the more egalitarian rotary.

Everything is connected.

The whole Buddhist thing.

Maybe if our traffic grids weren’t infested with such movement restricting stop signs our driving moods and habits would ease. Rotaries require trust and awareness between drivers, a sense of working together. While stop signs suggest two people couldn’t figure out who goes first without the government stepping in. It’s a subtle thing, but I think it’s partly why humans are socially aggressive in L.A. We’re isolated from contact with our fellow beings. We don’t rub shoulders on the train. We don’t pass on the street. We don’t even smile in elevators anymore.

But everyone waves on boats!?

Water is a social lubricant. I know. I used to cater weddings on boats. I used to catch people making out in in rooms they weren’t supposed to be in. A co-worker interrupted a couple mid-blow job in the galley one time.

It’s not the same on the freeways. Some drivers would curse out their grandmother if she happened to be rolling a rental.

Europe uses the roundabout. They have Amsterdam. I’m sure the two things aren’t unconnected.

Remember Buddha?

There’s something very Zen about driving on the freeways: finding your lane, having patience, giving other driver’s space. We’re always in a rush, zipping through life. There’s nothing wrong with slowing down, letting someone in your lane. You might even get Karma points for it.

If everyone smiled and spread grace through small gestures, life here and now would feel kinder. We are the culture we create.

When someone cuts you off, or speeds up to prevent you from changing lanes, you feel anger, frustration, misanthropic.

Do your fellow drivers a solid out there. You can help ease unnecessary suffering.

Nirvana is a carpool lane.

Rotaries are circles, the shape of life, interconnectedness. The shape of the planet. Nature.

Intersections with stop signs are square shaped. The shape of man. His brutal logic.

I’d like to see a study at how effective roundabouts would be in improving gas mileage and commute times. Two reasons alone to adopt them. Psychobabble aside — and I’m a proud Psychobabbler — they’re a saner way of dealing with intersections in my book. Both driver and car prefer forward propulsion.

A lot of pollution is caused from having to accelerate from a dead stop. Ever see a school bus belch out a huge cloud of dirty exhaust when the light turns green and it starts to move?

Rotaries are also safer than traditional intersections because all the cars are generally headed in the same direction, thus cutting down on head-on collisions, the kinds of accidents that really causes problems on a person’s exoskeleton.

I’m not saying their implementation would solve global warming or clear up the smog or eliminate road rage or slash the price of gas, but at least it’s a start. It’s something we can change about our habits, our civic infrastructure, to help deal with our 21st century problems.

Any thoughts?

Agree? Disagree?

Or is it just more rambling from Art of Starving?

[cross-posted at dailykos.com]

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2 thoughts on “Small Bits of Our Lives are Lost in Traffic

  1. there are soooo many roundabouts here where i live. new ones going in all the time at a cost of $150K and up EACH. I didn’t like them, there’s lots of accidents and old people don’t know what to do. but now i read your blog and i can like them, since they reduce pollution in some way. hey, when i used to commute to beverly hills from simi valley, i would listen to this tape called ‘road sage’ it’s about not feeling angry and mad stuck in traffic and instead wishing other people well and focusing on what is going on and not spacing out, being aware of ‘loving kindness’ and also just being aware in general. totally changed me entire attitude and outlook during my drive, it was great. until i’d try to move over a lane while going over the sepulveda pass and people try so hard not to even make eye contact when i’d be looking at them saying ‘can i please get in?” and i’d give the peace sign if they did. once some guy gave me the finger back. how L.A.!

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