On the second rainy evening of the week, I stared into the drips in the window as they reflect the glow of hundreds of cars going the other way, not really going, merely rolling a few inches at a time. Inside each of them were eyes with gaze similar to mine: this is probably their third hour of being in the ocean of automobiles crawling like prisoners waiting for their turn into the concentration camp, albeit with a minor difference. The car is their concentration camp.
As the car behind me honked like a madman for what have been two seconds of me not noticing the car ahead had moved one meter forward, I remembered that I am, too, inside a car. The machine, and the culture, that has become the most ubiquitous signature of our technological accomplishment over the last century.
Forty-five minutes later, I got home. Cinere, safe and sound and tired.
Don’t get me wrong, I love driving. I would say being able to drive is a modern manifestation of one of our most basic freedoms: The freedom of going places. Everyone should be able to drive, regardless of them having a car or not. Driving should be equal to computer skills. You can get through life not learning it — if you live in the 19th century. This is 2013. You. Should. Be. Able. To. Drive. A. Car.
That being said, getting stuck on the road for three hours just to get home every day is not fun and never will be.
Raising your speed in an empty street, letting the wind blow through your hair, taking left turns to god knows where — that must be what Henry Ford thought when Ford Model T became a hit. But then the cars overload the availability of roads in big cities, and so we formulate public transportation systems so people wouldn’t need to drive again because one bus should be more efficient than ten cars. But people keep on buying new cars, and they drive and drive and drive. And they drive slower and slower, because there are other cars, because the buses are too inconvenient, because they can still stand the sight of yet another traffic jam. And even if it rained all day and made people spent eight hours in their air-conditioned metal cage with their lives draining out of every hole in their body, people will still drive the very next day. Because they still have to get to work or school or meetings.
The question is, until when?
Reminiscing an episode of the revived sci-fi British TV show Doctor Who (the show is my current addiction, but more on that later), titled Gridlock, in the year five billion and fifty three, humanity will graze the Earth with their magnificent flying cars everywhere…
In an eternal traffic jam.
Going at the rate of ten miles in six years.
It goes to the length that there are actually children born and raised in the cars without ever stepping outside because the air is very highly polluted nobody can stand 20 seconds being outside without coughing like a pneumatic grandpa in a coal mine. Sure, it’s most likely a satire on the current state of transportation (note that the episode was made in 2007), and there are cat-human hybrids driving cars and a huge ugly face in a glass vat, but the point is we shouldn’t let the traffic jams become anywhere near that, not in a hundred years, not in a million.
Luckily we are creatures of highly adaptable nature, and numerous solutions have been proposed to overcome the worldwide transportation dilemma. In one side, people from the likes of my campus department are proposing a change in public policy or the mass transportation system, in the other, self-driving cars have been tested and proven to be a highly efficient alternative in the future.
We, on the other hand, should not turn our back and keep on staring on the motionless driver inside the motionless car in front of us anymore. Read and discuss all you can and try to use other means of transportation. Otherwise, one day, a few years from now, staring at the lines of cars outside your own house, you wouldn’t even give a second thought about driving nor going anywhere anymore.