Friday, January 27, 2017

The View from the Road

ND and I drove from Woo City to Baltimore, MD where we stayed overnight before driving on into the heart of D.C. Saturday morning. 

NJ Turpike
January 20, 2017
If you drive along the northeast corridor on a Friday afternoon at any time of the year you are likely to encounter a traffic nightmare at some point. Doing so while hundreds of thousands of other people like yourself are also driving toward the capital means that, collectively, you overburden the infrastructure. 

Particularly the bridges. Getting to and getting across both the George Washington Bridge and the Delaware Memorial Bridge was insane. Semi-organized chaos. Everyone's rage and frustration is constrained by sheer helplessness. Once you enter that fray, belted inside your car, you are completely contained by the crush of vehicles on all sides and in all directions. You literally go with the flow.

The GW Bridge is truly terrifying, an engineering miracle that's the architectural equivalent of a gargantuan iron dragon, a beast so hideous and frightening, so noisy, tense and simmering with coiled violence, that you grind your teeth and grip the steering wheel tightly with both hands while crossing it. 

In fact, just getting to it puckers the sphincter. You speed along on RT 95's battered pavement and cross that majestically wretched yet somehow captivating sprawl of the Bronx, and everyone is in a hurry and the energy is RELENTLESS and AGGRESSIVE and, not wanting to jinx your passage, you desperately try to avoid thinking about what you would do if you got a flat tire.

NJ Turnpike
The folly at the Delaware Memorial Bridge was the funneling of four jammed lanes of traffic through toll booths and then forcing them to merge down to two lanes. Kafkaesque absurdity. It took 30 minutes to inch our way about three miles before finally getting onto the bridge itself.

Despite those choke points, our spirits soared periodically when we saw other cars full of people that were obviously heading toward the Women's March like us. We fed on that portent, that fleeting connection to strangers, and we comforted ourselves with the thought that something positive was coalescing across the land. For the first time in a very long time we began to sense the awakening of a common purpose. 

The Women's March on Washington the following day was an gigantic expression of common purpose; you didn't have to sense it, you heard it in the roar of solidarity of 500,000 people, and you saw it in the packed city streets around you, and around the country.

American highways are harsh, unforgiving landscapes fraught with danger. You'd be advised to adopt a survivalist mentality when venturing onto them. 

To survive, you must know what is going on around you at all times. You must anticipate the unexpected and take nothing for granted. You must always know your escape options. 

You must always expect that someone will do something incredibly stupid that could jeopardize your life. 

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