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Opinion: Traffic Makes Me a Homicidal Maniac

By Tim Keen, 01 Jan 2017 Features

Opinion: Traffic Makes Me a Homicidal Maniac

Maybe I need to stop demonising traffic jams. In fact, maybe I need to find a way to make them… desirable

I’m trying to stay calm. I really am. Om… Om… I can feel the side of my head pulsing.

If my brain had a dashboard, all the warning lights would be coming on. I don’t do well with traffic jams. Especially not behind this idiot in the blue Kluger. What’s he doing? Where are you trying to go, Kluger Man? Are you trying to lane-split in a two-tonne ’burbcraft carrier? Om… Om… Omigod.

It’s not a completely irrational reaction. In July this year, 12 people died during a three-day, 20km traffic jam outside Brebes in Indonesia. Some of the victims succumbed to heat and fumes. I imagine the rest died after smashing their heads into the steering wheel repeatedly because the guy in the blue Kluger has tried to swap lanes and has now entirely blocked both of them.

In 2010, China’s National Highway 110 in Hebei province got clogged with a traffic jam that stretched more than 100km and lasted more than 10 days with an average speed of 1km per day. Per day. Probably caused by this guy in the blue Kluger. He is the worst person in the world. He should be tried at the Hague. Never mind the hoon cars: his Kluger should be crushed into a cube, with him in it.

Pollution at intersections is 29 times higher than on the open road. Cars stuck in stopped traffic contain up to 40 percent more pollution than those moving at 60km/h. Traffic jams are literally trying to kill you. Kluger Man is trying to kill me. If I don’t suffer some kind of catastrophic stroke first.

There’s a smartphone app now, called Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving, that includes ‘mindfulness’ techniques for when you’re stopped at red lights. “At each red light, pause and return to the present moment,” intones meditation teacher Michele McDonald. (This is really real.) “Take a few breaths. Settle into the stillness. Observe the glow of the stoplight.”

Maybe. But returning me to the present moment and making me observe the glow of the stoplight sounds suspiciously like telling someone being mauled by a dog to observe how glossy its coat is. I think I was more relaxed escaping the present moment, by thinking about dinosaurs fighting each other. 

Still, maybe the meditators are onto something. I get twitchy the minute I see the red glow of brake lights up ahead. Some sort of pre-traumatic stress syndrome. Maybe I need to stop demonising traffic jams. In fact, maybe I need to find a way to make traffic jams… desirable.
The name is a good start. Who doesn’t like jam? So much nicer than congestion. Right away it makes the whole thing sound a bit more delicious.

And they bring us all closer together. Literally. In this crazy helter-skelter world of social medias and climate changes and trigger warnings, isn’t it nice to just spend a bit of time with your fellow traveller – not rushing about, but just… being.

In fact, maybe there’s enough time for a little nap. Just ratchet the seat back and get a little shut-eye. Maybe we should all consider replacing our horns with more relaxing sounds – whale song, or distant ocean waves. Where was I going, anyway, that is so much better than having a nap and thinking about jam? I’m here, now, in my happy place.

Whuh. Huh? Where am I? I’m so high on traffic fumes that I must have started hallucinating for a second. Oh that’s right – I’m stuck behind Kluger Man. Om. Om. Kill me now.