I ventured off on a drive to visit my girlfriend in San Luis Obispo for a few days, and that inevitably meant I had to spend a good portion of my drive on Highway 5. For any California resident, to put it politely, you know that is a less than glamorous experience.
The stretch from Stockton to Los Angeles is usually the toughest part. And by tough I mean two lanes of 70 miles per hour then 10, then 80 then 5, then 25 then an hour delay because of an accident. No walk in the park. And in hindsight, walking probably would’ve been faster.
So anyways, what does the mind of a curious and bored gentleman like myself do? It wonders why the hell there is so much traffic, and tries to occupy the time as productively as possible while being confined to the driver's seat of a mid size sedan.
I opened Spotify and the first podcast on the popular page was “how traffic works.” Proof of a God above? I’d like to think so. Whatever it was, that 30 minute talk show dropped into my pitiful hands when I needed it most.
The two guys began to discuss the scientific reasonings, threw in a couple anecdotes and even developed a couple of their own theories on the how’s and why’s of traffic. The most alarming of them all was the roughly 78 billion dollars that is wasted in the United States annually, according to a study in 2007, just by sitting in traffic. The same study predicted by 2015 the overall amount of traffic would increase by 40 percent. Welp it’s 2018 and my hypothesis is that it ain’t getting any better.
It felt like there was at least a couple billion dollars wasted by me and the 20 million other Californians who just happened to need highway 5 the same day as I did. Some people are extremely inconsiderate.
Whatever you believe in, bumper to bumper traffic is the type of eternal suffering that I want absolutely no part of. They say fear is a terrible motivator, but traffic has convicted me plenty to avoid whatever the fiery guy down stairs has in store.
This whole thing got me thinking about how much time we waste in our cars, especially on long drives like these. Again, if my hypothesis proves right, you and I will still be spending plenty of time strapped into vehicles in the near future, so why not take advantage of it.
If you meditate or pray, use it as a time of reflection. Call an old friend and chat for a bit, just do so hands free so I don’t get knocked by the CHP for conspiring to break the law. Listen to a podcast to gain some information on something you are interested in. Listen to the audio book of whatever novel you are currently reading. The point is, do something.
We waste so much of our time, and having a purely sadistic and negative outlook on things like traffic only makes matters worse. Hypocritical yes, but masked behind the lowly comedic value of the opening paragraphs is my genuine enjoyment of the knowledge and entertainment that I gained from that podcast. As well as the spark it created to motivate me to spend time thinking and learning.
Take traffic as an opportunity to learn, have a conversation you’ve been dying to have, use it positively to start delving into the discovery of yourself and the things around you, and those dreaded commutes might be a little more bearable.
Unfortunately traffic still sucks. No doubt about it. But be productive, and maybe every once in a while, channel all that pent up anger and aimlessly yell at a person that will never ever be able to hear you – and even if they could, they wouldn’t care.