I took a road trip several weeks ago and it was pretty awesome. I came back with several new ideas and personal commitments. Since then I have been pretty much too busy to do anything other than work and sleep, which is extremely frustrating for multiple reasons.
This road-trip was a spontaneous, or near enough, several-hundred mile jaunt. It included three states and took around six or seven hours one-way. It climaxed with a motel room in St. George Utah. It was pretty uneventful, but it was an event that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and meant more to me than I can easily describe.
On my drive back to Arizona I passed through Las Vegas, Nevada. It took no more than twenty minutes to pass through the entire town, but those were the most harrowing twenty minutes this side of the Tigris and Euphrates.
I’ve been to Vegas once before. I was probably only eight years old, so I can’t really even say that I’ve ever been there. Eight year old me would surely not even recognise, and quite possibly be terrified by, today me. I remember standing in the lobby of what I’m told was Circus Circus and talking to my Aunt about some mythical roller-coaster that I’m not sure even existed. That’s it. The only memory I’ve had of Las Vegas for the last two-and-a-half decades of my life.
Then came southbound traffic of the I-15. Whew! I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been to Los Angeles several times, that first time was pretty intimidating. I used to live near Washington D.C. and commute onto a military base in the area. I grew up in Phoenix which, despite our reputation, is quite the city and has its own fair share of traffic. Hell, I drove like Mad Max all over southern Iraq several years ago! I’m no stranger to hectic traffic, yet all of this paled in comparison to southbound traffic on the I-15. Well, maybe not Iraq.
There is something special about Vegas traffic. Something unique rather, special has a positive connotation, and that traffic was anything but positive. I’m not a woo-woo type of person, I know it can all be explained by social and environmental cues – the looks on faces and the hand gestures and the general disrepair and filth of the roads and buildings; but I kid you not, I felt the negativity and angst rise as soon as I passed those city limits. People were tailgating like it’s going out of style, or like that’s the proper way to drive. Curse words were read on the lips of almost every driver I saw. People had their hands thrown up in frustration more often than they had them on the wheel. It was honestly the most unpleasant place in America that I have ever driven through. Side note – Odessa, Texas smells oddly reminiscent of Iraq, all the petroleum I assume, and all of Alabama on the I-40 smells like human flatulence.
Anyway, Vegas. I was amazed as I drove through that town. And make no mistake people, it is a town masquerading as a city, nothing more than several fancy buildings plopped down in the middle of an arid waste, adorned with alcohol advertisements and scantily clad women. I had never experienced such frantic futility. There were probably only a few thousand people driving around that Sunday afternoon, but they were driving like it was a major metropolitan rush hour and they were all an hour late. Where could they possibly all have had to get to in such a rush, with such apparent contempt for their fellow drivers? It was a lazy summer Sunday and there is really nothing to do in that town aside from the obvious. Are those vices really that compelling that thousands of people are driven to drive like mad-men and -women, demonstrating complete disregard for the traffic laws and the safety of their fellow travellers? Or is that just the norm and those people have all adapted from normal, or adopted, horrifying habits because that’s just the way they do it there? Do other people notice how terrible that traffic is, or am I just a baby?
I drive a lot for work, I average probably seven hundred miles a week. I see many bad driving habits, I see many people who shouldn’t even be driving. Thankfully we now have Uber and other alternative transportation services, so we can get some of these poor drivers off the roads. Vegas had all of the worst things I see during my hundreds of miles of driving all around the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, all packed in to about ten miles or so. It was garbage. I feel bad for anybody living in Vegas, that’s no way to live, constantly harried and in imminent danger every time you gotta go to work or go grocery shopping, or just take the kids out for a day at the park or whatever.
Driving around Phoenix I see it all. Texting and make-up-ing and eating and reading and sleeping and reaching and even copulating, these are just some of the activities I see people enjoy while also driving. I even see people reclining and driving with their feet from time to time. One thing I’ve noticed rather recently is that the majority of the time that I get cut-off or honked at or cursed or road-raged at, the driver has either a Blue Lives or a Veteran bumper sticker. C’mon guys, you’re making me look bad when you do that. You’re making yourself look bad, you look like a pompous idiot. You’re reinforcing the stereotype when you do that, the smug white-guy republican who thinks he’s better than all the other drivers on the road. Cut it out man, just slow down a little, you’ll still get there on time, you’ll get there safe, and you won’t put any other drivers at risk.
I see I’ve started rambling, this post is losing its coherence. I wanted to go on and talk about how I play little games with myself while I’m driving. That sounded wrong. I like to look at people in their car and try to predict what they’re going to do, whether they’ll change lanes only to realise they were already in the right lane and have to change back, whether they’ll zoom off from the traffic light like they’re on a race track, only to be met by me at the next one in my work truck or my old lady Buick, whether they’ll throw their taco wrapper out the window. I also wanted to talk about how strange traffic laws are when you really think about them, and how they demonstrate the evolution of moral behavior – we’re all driving around in several-thousand pound murder boxes that could do some real damage, yet we all agree to be on our best behaviour, for the most part, and we agree that we’ll pay the state a little money if we’re caught misbehaving. Maybe I will write another post about traffic. I think I probably will. I think I’m oddly fascinated by traffic.
Well, thanks for reading guys.
So long and thanks for all the fish.