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Random Thought for Friday, January 23, 2015: Traffic Merges, the Key to Happiness?

Welcome to Friday’s Random Thought.

I’ve been at it again and written a long one here and yes, there are a few rough bits of language, you have been warned.  Go grab a beverage and then sit back, relax and enjoy!

A few Mondays ago the weather was cool and rainy with some fog.  My mother would say when I was a kid that it was “Froggy outside”.

Monday mornings are for many people just a dreaded dread filled pile of dread with a cold side of dread and festering cup of dready dread.

To me Mondays are nothing more than the first day after a weekend.  On this particular Monday I observed something and it led to a revelation, an understanding if you will.

Why do a large number of people in the world seem to feel that Mondays…as with red minivans…are tangible proof of the existence of evil?  Why are people so unhappy right now and ultimately, how can one really determine and/or gauge how people are feeling?

First off we need to understand what drives happiness in people.  There are many volumes on this subject but I’d like to keep things in the context of Mondays and why Mondays continue to get a bad rap.

In a word, weekends.  Weekends are the simple reason why Mondays are so hated. Weekends for many people are those two days of potential free or “me time”.

We love to have our free time to spend with friends, family or work on other things like fix our cars, repair thinga around our homes or just simply rest. In the USA, our culture allows for so little “me time” that when we finally get going on the items that are outside of work we simply don’t want to stop with them.  Anything that interferes with that “me time” results in people becoming most unhappy.  Things like bad weather, traffic, money issues, being unemployed, etc.  The list goes on and on.

With less and less “me time” that is and/or potentially enjoyable, Mondays are just a reminder of everything that is wrong in our lives.  It is that end of the weekend that puts people off.

So, we can now understand why Mondays get a bad rap but now, how would we gauge the general mood of a population especially on a Monday?

If you remember the title of this post, you will see how this all comes together.  Traffic merges.

Yes, this is a key to so many things and I shall explain, bear with me.

In general, the mood of most people in the USA is that of fatigue. We are tired of the corporate rat race of the 1980’s that bled into the 1990’s and strives to live on through the next century.  We are tired of the political disaster that inhabits Washington, DC.  We are tired of the marketing bullshit that is forced down our collective throats.  We are sick and tired and some of us that is a literal reality.

People are tired of being treated like shit.  We are sick and tired of being sick and tired and overworked and under appreciated.  For decades we have done for the rest of the world to only be called arrogant and self-centered.  Yes, there are arrogant Americans who flaunt their self centered atttitude but on a whole, that is not who we as Americans identiy with or aspire to be.

We Americans have collectively had our “asshole” switches turned on.

Before you walk away from what I am writing here, just humor me, read this example and answer the question at the end, who is the jerk here?

You are driving to somewhere, it doesn’t really matter.  As you are driving along, traffic slows and you find yourself in a traffic jam as the right most lane is ending and merges left.  Many people merge left before the lane ends, however, a few people speed past on the outside of the right lane, on the shoulder of the road, to get to the end of the merge.  They pass the people who are merging left and continue down to the end of the merge and then try to cut back in.  They have created congestion as they collectively force their way into the left lane.  This causes everyone to have to slow down and ultimately is the cause of the traffic jam.

Someone becomes tired of being in the traffic jam, understands what is the cause and takes action.

This someone moves their car halfway over into the shoulder as if to join the parade of cars speeding down to the end of the merge but instead, slows down block the traffic.  No one can speed down the shoulder to the end of the merge and suddenly, the jam begins to ease and traffic begins to flow normally.  Everyone continues down the road and ultimately the one driver who blocked the parade takes a gap offered by a driver in the lane to the left of them to allow them to merge in.

Who is the jerk in this example?

Before you answer please do remember how the parts of a road are supposed to be used.

The lanes on the road are obviously for cars to travel within.  The shoulder is supposed to be used for a car that has broken down and in the most extreme of situations, used for travel.  Extreme of situations are things like a person in the pangs of childbrith, a person suffering a gunshot wound, a person dying.

Who is the jerk in our merge example here?  The jerk or jerks rather are the parade of cars of people speeding by everyone else in the shoulder to only cut off people at the end of the merge.

If you said that the jerk is the driver who blocked the parade of cars using the shoulder, I feel sorry for you and your general unhappy mood.  Please try to cheer up and the next time I block a parade of jerks from cutting everyone off, be sure that you are the one who decides to not stand on your car horn and flick me off.

You see, traffic merges are a constant source of gauging the general attitude of people in a populated area.  If the weather is bad and congestion has started due to a crash, you see a lot of congestion from angry unhappy people at a traffic merge. If people are not happy because they are in a rush, you see congestion at traffic merges.  If people are just simply unhappy with their jobs or frustrated at not being able to find work, you see congestion at traffic merges.

I have seen a lot of congestion at merges for the past 10 years, a lot more than I used to see when I was younger.  I am seeing a lot congestion at merges and a lot of people playing the “block the parade of cars” game in that far right lane that is ending.

Why do people succumb to the urge to speed down the shoulder to the end of the merge and cutcut off everyone who has been patiently waiting their turn?  Because they are sick and tired and overworked and underappreciated.  They feel entitled to a little of their “me time” returned to them as they simply can’t find it elsewhere.  It is that little rebellion against the world, that little victory to make themselves feel better.  It is truly sad that it is such an empty and worthless victory.

I know, it sounds completely insane.  Just think about it.  When was the last time you were in that parade of cars attempting to cut everyone off at the end a merge and you were in a good mood?  You only did it when you were in “asshole mode”, when your “me time” was threatened because you were late, because you had a lot to do and not enough time, because your kids were sick and you had to go pick them up from school because you had to leave them there rather than take a day off to take care of them.

We lack balance here in the United States.  Our culture is much too rushed and focused in the wrong directions in many ways.  We don’t think about others, we have become more and more inconsiderate of each other.  We don’t treat people the way we want to be treated.  It takes too much effort and takes too much away from potential “me time”.

You see, real happiness comes from a traffic merge that is not congested.  It comes from people realizing what is important in their lives and let’s face it, it is that “me time” that we get with our families, friends and non-work related pursuits.

This all begs the question, how do we become happy again?

I can only guess. I have no one idea to solve all problems as you can’t solve many problems with a singular solution.  You have to solve one problem with one solution at a time.  You have to make the time and take the effort to try.

So here’s one solution that may help.  Take the time to be considerate of others.  It is funny to realize that if we all did this we would all have more potential “me time”. Perhaps we should try that for a change.  What we have been doing is obviously not working.

Of course, people should stop being assholes at a traffic merges.  Be nice, do the yield thing, let someone over.  Take gap, give gap.  If for no other reason than simply because nothing else seems to be making you happy and what we have been doing again, is obviously not working.

Who knows, it might actually work.  You might actually be happy, you might actually be able to make that commute that day with minimal delays.  Trust me, your car will thank you for the reduced wear and tear on the brake pedal and horn.

Happy Friday everyone!

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