The hypnotic appeal of switching lanes

Last night I drove home in bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic. It was an excruciating traffic day, coming and going to work. We had some very hot temperatures here as well and it all combined for horrific commutes. On the way home, I became stuck behind one of those large, lumbering trucks that is as slow as it looks. It was carrying a full load of empty wooden pallets. We were in the #3 lane and rather than switch lanes like some hopeful traffic madman, I was content to drive in the truck’s lonely wake for miles. There was stop and go traffic, damnit. It’s not like I was going anywhere quick, and being stuck behind a slow truck means nothing because everyone is moving just as slow. Well, this seems logical, except when it comes to driving in a typical Los Angeles rush hour, logic is scarce. I was able to coast on the truck’s tail for a long, long time because it was obvious no one in their right mind wanted to drive behind that big truck. To do so arouses unpleasant driving sensations and threatens with the stigma non-progress. Despite the fact that even in this traffic, every lane is the mark of non-progress, there is nevertheless a hierarchical curse to driving in a lane directly behind a slow truck. Most drivers reflexively eschew this position. For this reason, driving behind a truck is great because you are guaranteed no one will cut in front of you. There are very few people willing to drive behind such a truck so if you are willing to do so, you will easily be given that less than desirable spot for the duration of the ride. I note this phenomena happens a lot during rush hours. If I plant myself behind a large and undesirable large truck, bus, or other slow-moving behemoth, no one will attempt to switch lanes in front of me. People are conditioned to avoid that spot. It is the mark of underachieving and unmotivated misfortune to drive behind such a slow vehicle even though the pace of traffic is so slow it doesn’t matter which lane you’re in because all the damned lanes are slow! We are conditioned in this manner to dread that spot against all logic. There is an undeniable caste implicit to being positioned behind a slow truck. We want to be anywhere except behind a large slow truck in slow traffic! We dart from lane to lane to avoid such a shadowed spot. We want more, we want an open spot, we want clarity of vision, and we want the ability to go fast even though we can’t. We can always do better so we switch lanes. We have been taught this and come to integrate such a foolish notion into our nature.

I think this the curse of modern pampered man. He expects too much. He has these ridiculously high standards that he flocks to blindly while casting all obstacles aside in order to reach the state he is deluded into beleiving is the “best” he can be. Man was taught that he can be this, and more. Stooping behind the shadows of a large truck’s ass is a low level of existence, but it can be better for it is his right and God-given privilege. He can steer clear of fate by escaping the truck’s rear legacy, so he does. He seeks to better his position on the freeway. Life always has other, better lanes available for those drivers willing to make the leap amid much dissatisfaction. Man is not happy unless he is unhappy. Man is not happy unless he defeats this obligatory unhappiness by switching lanes and looking for an advertiser’s definition of a better way.

Man always switches lanes in this modern life.
He has learned that he must want more. There is no questioning it. He must. He must accept that the present is never good enough.

But why, and what, is this? Why does man deserve better, why does he deserve more? This is not a right, it’s a hollow hunger. He does not deserve more, he does not deserve anything except to be happy with that which he has. Because the day may come when there is nothing further. Then?

Capitalism and unbridled free-market avarice is to blame.

They market high standards to us as children and we are fed improvement and impossibly high standards but we are never taught that consumerist complacency is beneficial because in fact it is not profitable or very good for industry. We are indoctrinated to want more and more, more expensive. As children we internalize this yearning and as we get older we become unreasonable and greedy and act as if are royalty but we are nothing bit hungry little profit centers, shoveling our heard-earned salary straight into the deep and bottomless pockets of our oligarchical charlatan rulers who continue to hypnotize us with the impossibility that better is always in our hands.

We act as if we have the most refined tastes in the world and we delicately place fine foods on our tongue and survey our household landscapes with the discerning and pretentious leer of a supercilious art critic. But we don’t know shit. We believe we do because we have been brainwashed by the media that this is so, and in the end, our tastes are what we mockingly accept as the final word in quality. Because what we want is the best and thus, we know best. It is in the interest of our financial masters to continue feeding us the belief that better is always within reach and to desire anything less is unhealthy.

Stability is frowned on. The status quo is mocked. Do not rest, it is bad for the economy! Do not settle into the heavy truck’s shadows. No one wants to drive there.

Switch lanes. Happiness is to be found in all lanes but your own.