12:20 a.m. 2010-10-23
I have burried the lead, but don't skip to the end.
The awesomness continues. Today, I was reminded that most attempts to outsmart the world will not succeed, and one of the reasons for that is no matter how much you feel you know the world is still full of surprises.
I had to run to the mall today. The mall is two neighborhood blocks, then about half a mile on a major city street, then about 3 miles on a highway, then about straightforward 5 city blocks away. That doesn�t sound too bad, and it isn�t when those streets work like they are supposed to work. Driving there it was congested and slow, but not all that bad, a 10 min trip in 25 min. But while going there I could already see the afternoon rush hour stacking up in the other direction.
I got my shopping done and decided to try to outsmart the world. That highway used to be under monster construction, and so those last 3 miles of highway and straightforward 5 city blocks were not accessible. So I found a couple routs through the city maze that get me to the bridge and back home.
My reasoning was that there were many many cars that were on the highway that used to be fighting through that city maze. Also, part of the construction that was going on on the highway had moved to part of the city maze. People, having access to the highway will take that, leaving the old routs more open, so going the old way home will be quicker.
I�m sure you all know that I was wrong about that. The old ways around the mall were very much clearer but that was because they lead to exactly the same place as the new highway but in a more meandering fashion; to barley moving traffic jams.
Block after block for 2 hours in stop stop stop inch stop stop traffic. Sitting still while people walked by in the middle of the street trying to sell watches and movies and gum and spring onions and phone charging chords and shoes and picture frames and knives and books and paintings and puppies. None of those are hyperbole. At some point in my drive from the mall home somebody walked past me trying to sell me those things at least once.
But I had brought along my ipod and was mentally ready for what traffic had to offer. I even coined a term in my head, �the Lagos Lunge.� That is when you are merging into barley moving but tightly packed traffic, either turning into it or the lanes are going from 3 to 2, 2 to 1, or two way to one way in the middle of a block (again, no need for hyperbole, all those happened on my ride back from the mall) and you make an aggressive stab at a space that forces another car to stop. Everybody fights the lunge, everybody does the lunge. You fight it because once there is a lunger, other cars will follow the successful lunger. There is no alternating, zipper effect that we see in so many American merging situations. You can also be a lunger when you are at the intersection of molassesslow street and glacial progress lane you want to lead your traffic through to the other side.
I fought off a lunge attempt as I approached the home stretch to the bridge that would take me home. One block later I saw something that can is downright inspirational. Dialup modem speed lane had a t-intersection into the barely moving road I was on, which meant that the only either of those two streets worth of traffic (both one way) could get to that last block that lead to the street that would lead to the bridge was for one lane to have a successful lunge and then everybody follow that person. That could freeze traffic on the other road for� ever. Some people might think this is a place for a traffic light. Those people haven�t been here, they don�t know that traffic lights aren�t followed when they are up.
Instead of a traffic light they had a crew of legless men, not in any sort of official uniform, scooting around on boards with wheels directing traffic. A man would roll himself up in front of your car and hold his hand up so you could see it, as his head basically right at hood ornament height and you would stop, and the car next to you would stop because another man with visibly mutilated legs on a board with wheels had also come up in front of them. And then a third similarly situated guy would wait for the cars in front to clear out and direct the waiting traffic on.
They worked with such seriousness and professionalism. They directed traffic with diligence and bravery. Somehow the thought occurred to somebody that the thing for a group of legless men to do is to tell cars where to go. And my own eyes were telling me that that person was absolutely right in this case, while my brain was struggling to comprehend what my eyes were telling it.
A crew of three guys with one functional leg between them was taking a stand against the selfish chaos and decrepitly inefficient Lagos traffic. They made order and courtesy prevail in rush hour, if only on that one corner. That they had to be this check against the inconsiderate motorized masses does not speak well of society, but they way that they were that check was an affirmation of humanity.
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