Commuter Cattle

If you do not believe that bad things can happen to good people, one need look no further than at the horrific reality that is rush hour traffic. Karma is dead, my friends. For four solid hours every workday, there is a deluge of unhappiness and spite covering every highway, city street and back alley in America. Every motorized vehicle on the road is piloted by a vengeful, heartless curmudgeon who simultaneously wishes that either their own car would spontaneously combust or that they could fire a rocket launcher at the slow moving car in front just to shave a few seconds off the trip to work.

Take a look around. Smiles are as common as 90 mph speed zones. Behind every wheel is the face of a disgruntled war veteran who every day is promised "One more battle, Johnny." Well, Johnny doesn't want to fight anymore - but he surely doesn't want to die. So Johnny isn't taking any prisoners. There are no friends on the highway.

These are not bad people. Not horrible individuals, sinister druglords or professional athletes. They're just like you and me. When out of their cars, they smile, are thoughtful of others and for the most part enjoy existing. But between the weekday hours of 7-9 and 5-7, every one drives like time is more precious than air. As if we all have a rapidly cooling pizza on the front seat and a pregnant wife going into labor in the back.

Surprisingly, the ride to work is slightly more optimistic than the ride home. Well, not optimistic. Just less wrathful. This is because of two reasons. One, after a day full of work and two journeys through commuter hell, the ride home brings the awful realization that the tortuous endeavor will be repeated tomorrow. Second, the morning trip is tainted by false hopes due to the brainwashing received back in elementary school.

In our early education, a set of unrealistic expectations is given to all in the form of Snow Days. It instills in the back of our minds the hope that something - inclement weather, national emergency, Halloween parade - will rescue us and cause the cancellation of our usually scheduled routine. At the first bell every morning, each child desperately hopes that something will happen to cut this day shorter than usual. Even a five-minute reprieve inspires joyous glee in every child's heart. I recall school once closing early because it was raining too hard. I don't even know what that means or why they thought it would be safer to send us out into mid-day traffic on diesel-choking buses. All I know is that every face had just as many raindrops as tears of joy.

But that doesn't happen at work. Work is never canceled. There is no radio call number for your company. There are no lice breakouts or office-wide scoliosis checks. Despite our innermost hopes and prayers, work will go on today. All day. Even if there is a poison gas leak in Sector G, the only disruption will occur when the folks in Sector H are asked to share their desks with the evacuated mutants from G until the quarantine is lifted.

This is why the morning commute may seem easier, but is in reality breaking our souls down one 3-minute stop sign at a time.

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