The Traffic's Stopped

We have but one view of the world, and it is our own.


I once heard that the best definition of genius is the ability to truly see issues and ideas from every perspective. I like this definition and believe it to be a sound measure of genius. Accordingly, I believe that there are maybe only about thirty true geniuses. At the end of the day, no matter how much someone else's perspective, opinion, or idea may seem better or more ideal than my own, I'm still most likely to go about the way I see it. Yes, I may augment my plan, but probably not by much. I hear people say "my way or the highway" far more often than I hear about complete openmindedness.

Sometimes it makes me sad, that we can only see the world from our own eyes. On the most paranoid level, what if the world I see is actually different than the world everyone else sees? As in the physical world. What if I see trees when everyone else sees giants? I don't fear this, even though I am the smallest man in the world, but if this is the case, that I am living in some sort of one-person parallel universe, I thank all giants out there for letting me interact with you as trees. My apologies to any giants that I have severely injured when I cut you down and turned you into firewood.

On a more realistic level--at least realistic within the realm that might be my own strange parallel universe--it makes me sad to think that I can't share my view like I may when I plug my computer into a projector. All I have is my mind and my use of communication to share with others what I see, which hopefully will translate the most similar picture that as I see it onto someone else's mental canvas. This relies a lot on language and all sorts of constructs, but I don't want to delve into that. That's what critical and literary theory is for, and my is that a silly field.

That's why I feel it is best to share experiences with others. Share experiences not as in recount my experiences through storytelling, but share as in have those experiences with others in the first place. If we're both on a roller coaster laughing as we zip around a bend, it seems safe to me to assume we're having mostly the same experience--barring this idea of everything being a lie in a parallel universe a lie a lie I tell you!--in that moment.

However, we can't have all of our experiences with everyone else all the time. So, storytelling is our next best bet, and not a bad one at all. A good story gets a good response, which makes both the teller and listener feel good. I'd say that's a good all around. As such, storytelling is my favorite thing there is. Just don't retell me stories all the time, I for some reason hate that so much. Life is about living, so if you're all out of experiences to share, go have some new ones.

On a final, very different note, what if you can't see the world through your eyes at all? Obviously blind people have incredible experiences and horrible experiences, just like the rest of us. They are simply had, remembered, and recreated without the use of sight. Why I really bring the point of blindness up is because I recently learned that a group of conspiracy theorists believe that Stevie Wonder is faking his blindness to fool people. Yes, people believe that Stevie Wonder is not actually blind.

Stevie, if you're reading this, good on you. You've done a great job with this act. As you can clearly see, you've given us some of the best music of all time, so keep at it. As you say in "Higher Ground," "don't let nobody bring you down."


We'd been sitting there completely stopped in traffic for over two hours. It was a hot September day. Having the windows open helped only a little. Regardless of the heat, I'd turned off my red station wagon so as not to just idle, wasting gas and needlessly contributing to murdering the atmosphere. If it weren't so bad for the globe, though, I absolutely would have been running my air conditioner.

I stuck my head out the window to look for progress up ahead for the umpteenth time, again to no avail. It was a two lane highway and the line of cars stretched for miles in both directions. I brought my head back in and rubbed my neck, sore from sitting and the tension. Once I thought about how sore my neck was, I realized how sore I was all over. My butt was going numb, even though I was sitting on a cushiony Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallow so that I could see above the wheel. I stretched my legs to the floorboards below the peddles, lifting my rear end.

What in the hell could possibly be going on up there? I thought. My car was full of stuff: two lamps, three boxes of clothes, a partially dissembled road bike, bedding, and a few picture frames. I was on my way out of New England for an extended stay. The plan was to drive all the way to Cleveland for the first leg of the journey, but here I was, stuck in early upstate New York.

This is bullshit. If we don't get moving soon, I'm going to be stuck somewhere near Erie or who knows where Pennsylvania. I have never been to Erie, and Pennsylvania seems a fine place. But, being as I was steadily heating toward a rage boil, anywhere that wasn't where I wanted to be sucked, naturally. I hate Erie, I thought. I do not hate Erie. Erie sucks. This I do not know.

The car behind me honked. "Screw you, you ass, you piece of, you piece of ass!" I yelled aloud to no one. I'm very good at swearing effectively when I'm mad. I turned to look at whatever piece of ass was behind me. It was a van filled with a happy family. They were laughing. A woman in the passenger seat was leaning over the driver, dumping some slushy drink out the window. She must have leaned against the horn. The driver waved an apology to me.

I faced forward again, now even madder. I wasn't mad at them, but I was mad at being mad at them. "Dang it!" I yelled, slamming the steering wheel with my fists. I looked for some outlet. There was a gas receipt on the seat next to me. I grabbed it and flicked it. It was completely unsatisfying. I swelled with rage again, but held it in. I blinkered and drove off the road onto the shoulder. I didn't gain or lose any progress, I was just off the road now. It was nice in a strange way.

I shut off my car, got out, and walked ahead. People looked at me from their cars like I was a mad man. I glanced at my reflection in the side of a blue sedan. I looked normal as usual, the same old smallest man in the world as always. Eventually other people pulled off, too. We're going to be here forever, I thought.

After a while, I rounded a bend and came upon two workers in orange suits. They both held dual stop-slow signs, one worker in each lane. Both held their signs in the stop-side. They sort of hung from their signs, half soaking in the sun, half waiting for something. I stopped and watched them for a moment. Nothing.

I looked back behind me. The line of cars went on for as far as I could see.

I looked ahead. The line of cars went on for as far as I could see.

"Excuse me, what're we waiting for?" I asked the worker nearest me.

"Work," he said, not looking at me but instead looking down the road.

"What kind of work?" I asked.

"Road work," he said.

"No, I mean what road work specifically?"

"This whole road is being torn apart to be repaved."

The other worker leaned farther from his sign, moving closer to our conversation by maybe half a torso. "Traffic's moving one lane at a time, that's why we're here," he said.

"No, it's not," I said. I looked at the car nearest the sign. The people just sat there looking ahead. "It's not moving at all."

The first worker shook his head. "That's because I've got it on stop," he said. He shot a loot at the other worker as if to say duh.

"Are you serious?" I asked, irked.

"Uh, buddy, you'd have to be blind to not see that it is."

I pulled up my pants a little and straightened my posture, frustrated. "There's no construction back there, buddy," I said.

"Yeah there is," said the second worker.

"No, there's not."

"They're tearing out a whole lane to repave the road."

"You are an idiot," I said. "You guys clearly are in the wrong place."

"Sir, take it easy," said the first worker.

"No, you take it easy," I said loudly, close to a shout. "You two morons have been standing out here with stop signs for two, maybe three hours now. You're just blocking traffic for no reason!"

"You need to calm down," said the second worker, now facing me.

"You need to turn the sign, you, you, ass-clown," I said. "Both of you dumbasses need to get out of here and let us all through! This is ridiculous!"

"All right, that's enough, sir," said the first worker. He grabbed his shoulder-mounted walkie talkie extension and talked into it. "We've got a guy up here on County Road B about ten miles outside of town holding up traffic," he said.

Furious, I walked toward him. "Let us through or I'm going to turn that sign around for you," I said.

"Now he's threatening me," he said into the shoulder microphone. "Stop right there!" he said, pointing to me. I was already stopped and there was plenty of space between us.

"I'm not threatening you. I'm just very angry," I said.

"We've got a crazy man endangering an entire road crew, copy," said the second worker into his walkie talkie. He waited a moment. "Do you copy?" He pulled his walkie talkie off his belt and examined it. "Oh my gosh, Mike, you aren't going to believe this, but this thing's been off the whole time!" he said.

Mike laughed. "You've got to be kidding me!" he said. He also pulled out his walkie talkie and examined it. "No, no way!" he said.

"What?" said the other worker.

"Gary, mine's off too!" said Mike. "Can you believe it?"

"That is too funny," said Gary. "Too funny."

"You guys are the dumbest, stupidest, most unbelievably--"

Gary turned on his walkie talkie. "Requesting police assistance on County Road B, 'bout ten miles out, over."

"Copy, sending someone out right away," said a voice over the handheld unit.

"What, are you kidding me?" I said, taking a step back. "You guys are the one's who have been out here holding up hundreds, maybe thousands of people this whole time. I don't know if it's technically a crime, but it certainly is some sort of public nuisance--"

I heard the faint wah of sirens.

"There's an officer in the lineup of traffic outside of town headed your way," said the voice over the walkie talkie. "Is the suspect hostile?"

"No!" I yelled, taking a few more steps back.

"He has approached us and may potentially be armed," said Mike. "We are in danger."

"No, no you're not!" I said.

The sirens sounded closer. I could faintly hear an engine now, too. I turned and started jogging.

"He's running! This guy's crazy! I don't know what he's going to do," said Gary into the walkie talkie.

I ran as hard as I could back toward my car, looking over my shoulder every so often. After a bit, a motorcycle zoomed down the middle of the road. He slowed down near Gary and Mike, who pointed at me. He then accelerated in my direction.

"Shit!" I yelled, now sprinting. "What the damn ass shit is this!?"

"Stop and put your hands up!" yelled the police officer.

I stopped running, only twenty or thirty yards short of my car. People looked at me from their cars, terrified, as the officer came up behind me and handcuffed me.

"You're under arrest for threatening those two workers," said the officer. "Not to mention holding up all this traffic."


In the end, I didn't wind up having to stop in Erie or some other town along that forever stretch of Pennsylvania, which is good. However, I also didn't make it to Cleveland, either. I spent the night at the end of day one in a little jail cell in a small town in eastern upstate New York. I won't say the name of the town, but I can say with complete confidence that it totally sucks. It is a real suck ass, piece of damn, piece of ass... It's a sucky town. Anyone could see that.

Even a blind man.

Maybe I'm just failing to see it from the best perspective. I never claimed to be a genius.