I live by a dock where cars are dumped off daily. Hourly. Mercilessly. They march like I-Robots, half-wrapped, past my window toward a processing plant. And every day I get that uneasy feeling you have when too many people cram inside an elevator. Last week a batch of cars rolled straight off the docks INTO GRIDLOCK.
And that is why I write.
It used to be that rush hour referred to a time of day; now it refers to an era. This is The Idling Age. We can't go anywhere but into the conga line of our freeways. "Rush hour" ... "free ways" ... Why do these words suggest movement? Most of us live in second gear, wondering why the lane beside us catches all the breaks. I believe it was Confucius who first said, "The traffic's always lighter in someone else's lane."
When the jam does lighten up, usually around three a.m., we race to make up time. Word to the wise: Judges are not sympathetic. They say things like, "It's a speeding ticket, Mr. Love. You can't plea insanity." Then they send you to traffic school, where it takes them eight hours to tell you to slow down!
Meanwhile, drivers are getting cranky. In L.A., the glove compartment has officially been renamed the gun compartment. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- breathe -- of the 45,000 traffic deaths last year, one third belonged to road rage. Some alien professor is pointing at his monitor, saying, "See, Grok, when the population gets too crowded, our subjects begin to brutalize each other."
I myself don't carry a car gun, but I do understand. Once you've breathed someone's fumes for an hour, you start to wonder why they're out in the first place ... and whether their parents bred on purpose. I've suffered all sorts of impure thoughts. If a tsunami could just wipe out the west side, I'd be home in no time...
And the cars roll off the dock.
In the Beginning, humans reproduced to avoid extinction; now we have to stop reproducing for the same reason. Women are having five, six babies -- sometimes in a single sitting. Every 20 minutes, the population grows by 3,000. By 2050, we'll reach 12 billion; by 2150, 244 billion.
Remember Eight Is Enough? I believe that program sent the wrong message. It should have been called Eight Is Way Too F-ing Many. If those children had eight children, and those eight children had eight children ... I knew a man named Carlos who thought so highly of his seed that he created 25 humans. I nominate Carlos to oversee our first colony on Mars.
We are reaching maximum density, and by that I mean the lowest possible I.Q. Despite our prospects, we continue to fiddle with cloning, fertility pills, Roe vs. Wade. Maybe it's time to give up on fission and take a crack at fusion.
So what do we do, educate our children and rethink public policy? No, silly, we move into our SUVs! If we are to spend our best years in gridlock, then by God we're going to have A/C, microwave, and a 15-CD changer. I once missed an exit while watching Sponge Bob through someone else's window. So it goes.
If I could summarize the madness in one word, it would be "Hummer." The Hummer is not only the ugliest car ever made, but it satisfies a more profound public need for it to be expensive and recklessly wasteful. We even have Hummer limousines, which go by GPM -- gallons per mile. Carlos will be driving one on Mars.
Maybe I'm overreacting. The government could right now be designing telepods so that we all arrive at our destinations instantaneously... as Brundelflies. Or maybe it's back to horse-and-buggies. I can see a day when millions of horses line our freeways, neighing and bucking and randomly relieving themselves (you thought exhaust problems were bad today).
For my part, I'm staying home altogether. Wherever I might go just ain't worth the going. There's too much swearing and shouting and finger gestures -- all within my own vehicle. I will be content to sit by the window watching these half-wrapped SUVs march into traffic by stops and starts, the drivers straining their necks to see Sponge Bob.