There is no “Stuck” in Traffic

There is no “Stuck” in Traffic

by Simon Black

I used to get really frustrated driving around Los Angeles.  Not any more.  I figured out the secret to enjoying driving in heavy traffic.  It’s all in your mind.  For instance, you might think you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway.  But observe your speedometer.  You might be going 20 mph.  That’s really pretty fast, when you think of it.   

For instance, right now I am running late.  My wife wants me home by six because we have to go to a dinner party.  But suddenly the freeway is all backed up and I am getting very anxious because am stuck in traffic.

Or am I?

There’s no need to be anxious, I tell myself.  Because I’m not “stuck” in traffic at all–that’s just a delusion of my thinking.  Using my method of mind power I can begin to see the truth.  I first see (in my mind) just up ahead on the side of the freeway a WALKING MAN.  He’s walking at a brisk pace, maybe 5 mph.  So I come flying up to  him, and he says to me, “Give me a ride, man,” and I say OK, and I let him in.

“This is awesome,” he says, sitting in my passenger seat.  “So much faster than walking.”

And that really makes me think – this is pretty awesome, compared to walking.  See!  I’m not at all stuck.  I’m moving freely and rapidly.  That is the complete opposite of stuck.

Next, I come up to a RUNNING MAN.  He is running at about ten mph.  I go past him and he calls, “Hey wait!  Give me a ride!  You’re going so fast!”

So I stop and I let him in.  He sits in the back seat and he’s so happy.

“This is so much better than running,” he says.  “My knees were starting to kill me.”

And I think, yes, this is a lot better than running.  I am extremely, extremely lucky to be in this quite rapidly moving vehicle.  And I am totally, totally not stuck at all.  

Next, I come up to a BIKING MAN.  He is cycling at about fifteen mph.  He is really pedaling hard.  But as I go past him, he calls to me, and he’s French, of course.  “Monsieur.  S’il vous plait!  Give me a ride. I’m tired of pedaling this bike, sacre bleu!”  I stop and I allow him to put his bike in the trunk.  It takes a little while.  He has to take of the wheels and stuff.  The Walking Man and the Running Man are pissed.  They’re like, “Shit, now we’re not even moving.  We woulda been better off just walking and running.”  I say, “Relax fellas, he’s got the bike in the trunk.  We’re gonna be off in a second.  And we’re going to go at about twenty miles per hour.  That’s way faster than you could ever walk or run, so just be patient.”  They calm down, and make room for the Biking Guy.  He is really happy. “Merci beaucoup!” he says.  “You are going so much faster than I could and by the way, just between you and me, I use steroids.  C’est incroyable!” 

I realize how incroyable it really is, to be flying down the freeway at twenty miles an hour and I don’t even need to do blood doping or steroids. 

But just then, the traffic comes to a complete stop.  “Aw,” everybody sighs.  And it does seem pretty crappy.  Now we do really seem stuck. And my anxiety is starting to return.  The Walking Man and the Running Man and the Biking Man are starting to feel anxious too.

“What is ‘appening!” cries the Biking Man.  “Why are we not moving!”

But then, a voice comes on the radio – it interrupts the middle of the song and it starts talking in this strange voice.  It’s like a robot voice.  “Humans,” says the robot voice.  “Imagine you were in a very hard exercise class, and the coach is having you do push-ups and sit-ups and squat thrusts.”

“We hate squat thrusts!” we say.

“Yes, everybody does.  But imagine, finally, the coach gives you a break.  How would that feel?”

“That would feel awesome,” we all agree.

“Well, that’s what your car is doing when you are completely stopped in traffic.  Your car is taking a break from all the exercise.  Taking a breather.”

And I think about it.  It must be nice for the car to take a little break every now and then, and for the wheels not to have to roll around, and for the pistons to take a break from hammering.  It must feel relaxing for the car.

“You’re right,” I say to the robot voice.  “I see it from a completely different perspective now.”

I begin to feel that soothing feeling of relaxation that the car is feeling, and before too long the traffic eases up and we are moving again.  We’re soon flying at about twenty miles per hour and now my passengers have the windows down and they are sticking their heads out the window like dogs do, really enjoying the wind blowing at them.  They have big smiles plastered on their faces. 

It just so happens that the freeway is running next to a river.  And what do we see in the river?  A SWIMMING MAN, with a bathing cap and goggles, and he’s swimming as fast as he possibly can, at about five miles an hour.  And my passengers are like “We’ve gotta stop and give this poor guy a lift.  Look how slow he’s going.”

“But he’ll get the car all wet,” I complain. 

“But look!” they exclaim.  “Look who that swimmer is!”

I look over and sure enough, it is Michael Phelps!  So I pull over on the shoulder and let Michael Phelps in.  He can’t believe how fast we’re going.

“Fifteen miles per hour!  I could never swim that fast.  And I have like a hundred gold medals for swimming.”

“Yeah, we’re going way faster than you could,” I agree.  “And we didn’t have to do any of the years and years of boring training and practice.  That’s one of the great things about having a car.”

“That’s amazing,” Michael Phelps says.  

Between you and me, Michael Phelps looks a little stoned.

“Are you stoned?” I ask him.

“No, dude,” he says.  “I just can’t believe how fast we’re going.”

And I see it from a swimmer’s perspective then.  From his perspective, we’re moving so fast that we might as well be going through that light tunnel in outer space in the movie 2001 Space Odyssey.

And then the passengers all start freaking out, because the traffic jam opens up somewhat, and we find ourselves absolutely flying along at 35 miles per hour.

“Oh my God!” they scream.  “We’re going into another dimension!”

Then up ahead, what do we see on the road?  It’s a JOCKEY ON A HORSE, galloping along at a real clip.  This is a thoroughbred, a beautiful brown horse, just racing along.  And the jockey has one of those striped jackets and a little cap and he’s bouncing up and down.  Every once in a while he whips the horse with his crop.  This guy is really pushing it!  And the horse is sweating, and striding but guess what!  At forty miles an hour, my car catches up to this jockey and begins to overtake him.

“Wait!” calls the jockey. 

“No way!” I say.  “We are not giving you a ride.  There is no way that horse will fit in this car.”

“Sure he will,” says the jockey. “He can sit on my lap.”

I’m skeptical.  I look at my other passengers.  They’re skeptical too.

“No monsieur,” says the Bicyclist.  “That ‘orse will take a crap in ‘ere.”

“He already crapped a few miles back,” shouts the jockey.  “Come on man, we’re tired.  And you’re way faster than us.  My money is on you for first place in this race.”

Alright, I say.  And in they get.  The jockey squeezes in the back seat and the horse sits on his lap and sticks his head out the window and we are off again.  Soon the horse has that same big dog smile on his face as he feels the wind blowing at him, and we’re all singing and screaming with joy and it’s just awesome.

“Neighhhhhhhhh!” sings the horse.   

And I know exactly what he means by that. For the first time in my life, I am able to communicate with an animal.  More or less like Dr. Doolittle.

So then I reach my exit and I get off the freeway and it takes a little extra time to drop everybody off.  And we all say goodbye and vow to get together again real soon, and finally I head home. 

When I walk through the door I have a big smile on my face because I have just had such an interesting experience.  But my wife is not smiling at all.  “You’re late!” she says, and she looks pretty mad.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” I say, the smile fading from my face.  “What happened was…”

I realize how difficult it is going to be to explain to her that I had to stop and pick up a WALKING MAN and a RUNNING MAN and a BIKING MAN and then we came to a complete stop and a ROBOT VOICE helped us see it differently and then we picked up MICHAEL PHELPS  and went through a LIGHT TUNNEL and into another dimension where we picked up a HORSE AND JOCKEY and I somehow gained the ability to communicate with animals and then I had to drop each of them off at their destination and that it kind of took a long time and that it’s all really just a game in your mind, so instead I just say:

“I got stuck in traffic.”



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2 Replies to “There is no “Stuck” in Traffic”

  1. Simon Black

    I see that the idea of stuck and unstuck is worthy of revisiting.

    A good read indeed.

    Ed Hayes