Traffic Jams

Very few things in life test the strength of a family bond quite like getting stuck in a traffic jam with a sibling on route to the airport. The situation becomes even more intense when their plan centers around flying to Vegas and hooking up with a significant other for New Year’s Eve. I had plenty of time to realize this fact while sitting in my car with my sister the on the twenty-sixth of December.

In general I-25 does an adequate job of moving north and south bound traffic through the Denver metro area. Sometimes, however, the large eighteen wheeled trucks can really slow things down. Especially when they are positioned perpendicular to the normal flow of traffic. Being tipped over doesn’t seem to improve the situation much either.

Often times brother and sister do not require words to communicate thoughts and emotions to one another. I didn’t even have to turn my head to sense my sister thinking “I told you we should have taken E-470 to the airport, but you were too cheap to pay the three seventy five toll charge.” Of course I was busy thinking “Hello! How was I supposed to know a truck was going to tip over on I-25? Do I look like Miss Cleo?”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Omar does not bear any resemblance to this black female Jamaican television psychic. Their voices, however, are remarkably similar.]

After about 10 minutes of barely creeping forward it became fairly obvious that no cars were getting past the accident. Eventually several police and fire trucks drove up along the shoulder and arrived at the accident site. Which was a good thing in most respects because their purpose is to clear up the situation and get traffic moving.

Some of the cars on the right hand side of the road came up with the idea that if the emergency equipment could make significant forward progress on the shoulder, they could too. Most drivers will do anything to safely get out of the way of a ten thousand pound fire truck with flashing lights and an eardrum splitting siren. The same respect is not given to beige late model Honda Accords.

Being in the middle of three lanes, we watched as the Accord drove on the shoulder and passed three cars before its driver realized the futility of this course. As the Accord tried to merge back into the right hand lane, nobody would let him get back off the shoulder. Eventually the guy in the Accord and guy in the car who wouldn’t let him in both laid on their horns as they inched closer towards one another. The fact that everyone was traveling, on average, zero miles an hour seemed to be lost on both of them. If massive tragedies in the world tend to bring out the best qualities in our society, minor traffic jams must be the audition stage for purgatory.

At that moment in time I realized people in cars don’t really have any good methods of communicating with each other. Honking a horn is really the only way to express an opinion in this type of situation. Which is a lot like dogs barking. Maybe the first bark is useful, but after that it is just annoying noise. And of course dogs barking at other dogs barking is a wonderful way to spend a hot summer’s night.

To make the world a slightly better place to live, I believe cars should be equipped with the “emotion icons” similar to those found in E-mail messages and Instant Messenger services. For example, when merging on to the highway, the driver could press the “smiley face” button on the dashboard. This would cause a display unit on top of the vehicle’s roof to light up briefly with a smiling face. The driver who let the car in would see this sign of gratitude and, if he happens to works for the United States Postal Service, might postpone his plans for a murderous workplace rampage.

Another useful icon would be a face with an “Oops, my bad—Sorry about that” look to be used when a driver does not take note of the car in the blind spot before changing lanes on the highway. An “I’m this close to going on a murderous rampage” symbol might prove useful. Even something along the lines of “I’m in the process of delivering a baby—please get out of my way so I can get to the hospital!” could come in handy on occasion.

So, eventually we made our way past the accident, pausing only briefly to see the twisted wreckage that had delayed our journey. While slightly behind schedule, I dropped my sister off at the airport with enough time for her to get aboard her flight to Las Vegas. When I got back home I documented my proposed enhancements and sent them off to several major automobile manufacturers. I have not received any replies, but I remain optimistic 🙂