The commute as Life

Ah the gloriousness of a day off from work.
I can take my time. The morning belongs mostly to me. I can prepare breakfast and coffee at my own pace. I don’t need to entertain hidden preoccupation at jumping on the freeway or bus to jump start the morning commute. I don’t need to worry about booting up my senile work station or sloughing through Dickensian reams of paper or contend with the attendant personalities permeating the ego-fractured swarm of co-workers.

Ah glorious day off!

I love the freedom from structuring my day around an inflexible and dictatorial schedule that blueprints my life. I can take a shower when I want (or choose not to, blah!). We become such rote creatures of the daily structured paradigm that we cease to wonder at that which is lies outside.

Days off give me this; a cursory and fleeting taste of freedom. The magnificent glory of an unscheduled world.

If only there was money to be made from such!

Without a doubt, what I miss least on days off is that grueling drive to work, which in my case can take from a half to full hour depending on the sensitive traffic flow and all the accidents and other assorted incidents which are prone to logjam it. In previous posts I’ve alluded to the fact that my public transportation commute (when I choose to take it) is quite the goldmine for free-form rumination and crazy-ass observations which frequently foster material for this blog. However, not to discount the commute on days I drive my own car, I still perform the same mental gymnastics in a semi-conscious manner while I slice my way to work and back. It was during one of my recent driving commutes that I happened to examine my emotions and stirring sense of outrage that can be triggered during the course of driving around town when I must share the road with thousands of other anonymous Angelenos.

Actually, I thought of some common behaviors which fellow commuters perpetrate on my bothered soul, thus provoking disproportionate amounts of ire.

1) Tailgating
2) Failure to use blinkers (when in close proximity)
3) People who stop incredible distances behind the next car while waiting for a red light and slowly inch their way up during the entire cycle

Are these actions really so heinous as to incur all this wrath? Do they detract at all from my purpose, which is first and foremost, to arrive at my destination with all parties concerned in one piece? No, of course not. They are trifling and bothersome and are mere annoyances in the broad scheme of the big horrors of life. Do they annoy other people similarly? Do others experience my same sense of slighted anger at being on the receiving end of such commuting behavior? I would think not.

I want to make it clear that I rarely experience road rage. I’m a mellow driver and I suspect I piss a lot of people off by virtue of my less than urgent demeanor on the road. Perhaps other driver’s lists of despicable road behavior includes people who drive too slow. But how do they define “slow?” My definition of “slow” is anything below a the posted speed limit. My speed of preference is generally from the speed limit up to 10 or 15 mph above that, depending on road conditions, etc. I suspect that many might define their speed of preference as 20 mph above the speed limit. Our appraisal of road behavior is deeply encapsulated within the moral shell we vainly inhabit. And since we are human, we tend to encompass all of humanity in our moral shell and expect it to reign supreme over all inhabitants. But they’ve all got their own moral shells as well, so we are dealing with a bunch of incongruous and conflicting moral shells competing for asendancy. Which is the recipe for war, is it not? Especially on the roadway of modern humanity.

Viewed in this context, I realize that my 3 commuter pet peeves are really nothing but extensions of my moral outlook as I tend to expect of society. As expressed within the context of a rush hour commute in the city of Los Angeles.

Tailgating offends my righteous sense of patience by virtue of it troublesome ability to allow drivers to express obnoxious levels of impatience. I despise impatience in all forms. In tailgating, the road is a scene for a glaring manifestation of this most self-absorbed of all disgraceful human behaviors. In the work place it manifests itself as excessive hounding, micro-management. In society at large, impatience is expressed as a crazed hurriedness and vomited as wanton actions and attitudes which ostensibly appear the result of placing one’s aims and goals ahead of everyone else’s. Therein lies the reason impatience is a scourge upon my existence. Impatience is enlivened and nourished by the the presumption that your needs override the comfort and personal space of others. It’s a subtle (and not so) form of arrogance. Which is fine. For you. Don’t draw me in to your nightmarish cauldron of self-absorption, fucker. This mentality describes purely that which tailgating represents on the roadway.

Failure to use blinkers is perhaps the nitpicking queen of the group. Blinkers serve no real and justifiable practical purpose on the road. Of all driving habits, signalling is essentially the “good neighbor” one which most of us exhibit as a courtesy in the spirit of conscientious co-existence with the unspoken aim of making the roadways a more palatable and harmonious environment for all. Blinkers are bullshit, we all know this. Not the point. Much of our civilized conscientiousness has no point. But there is a bare minimum of diligence and recognition which we all must display when sharing the road for a cooperative society to exist. I won’t be bent out of shape if someone fails to use blinkers on an empty road at 4:30 in the morning…I’m slightly less neurotic than that. No, the instances where failure to use blinkers annoys the hell out of me are those where drivers decide to squeeze into the space in front of you (and I mean “squeeze”); or those drivers who fail to signal that they are turning instead of going straight through the intersection when it’s obvious the only reason you are stopped at a light or stop sign is to yield the right of way to them, should they happen to go straight; and the most symbolic of all, the idiots who don’t signal as they merge into your lane because their’s is ending, and though it’s a given you will let them enter, they don’t participate in the customary gesture of signalling to herald their intrusion. Once again, a thoughtless self-absorption manifested on the roadways, not unlike tailgating.

People who stop too far behind the next car and slowly inch their way up during the red light cycle…This one has absolutely nothing in common with my others. I can’t imagine why it irritates me so. I suspect it’s representative of a symbolic half-assed deliberateness I witness in many people; an overwrought measure of contemplation which disguises itself as hesitancy and timidity in the face of serious decisions. I suppose this might even be considered impatience (o hypocritical me!). This behavior essentially sums up much of the male/female dichotomy in their approach to sorting out daily life. The female decision-making process involves nauseating amounts of dissection and discussion. I see this in the workplace all the time. In that world there is frequently more talking going on than actual doing. Meetings, teleconferences, talking, thinking… I have a job to do, I don’t have time to talk about it. You talk, I do. I suspect this is why I am so bothered by a driver’s annoying habit of stopping about 3 car lengths behind the next car and over the next 45 seconds slowly inching up. Just stop where you’re supposed to and stay there you bastard. Make your choice and live with it. Action! This inching up bullshit is the equivalent of a protracted decision-making process and all its built-in hemming and hawing. Over some stupid-ass choice that you need a community forum to occur before you can just do it.

I’m not mad.