Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For traffic is like unto a man that is an householder...

Traffic is just like Jesus' parable of the man who hires laborers to work the day in his vineyard. In the morning he hires men for a fair wage. In the afternoon he hires more at the same wage and in the early evening he again hires more at the same wage. Despite settling on the fair wage, the since-morning workers thought they got a raw deal, seeing as how these johnny-come-latelys were nabbing the same wage for a fraction of the work. "And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, these last have wrought but one hour, and thou has made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."

It's such a beautiful metaphor for the perceived zero sum game, in this case of traffic. Catching a green light or getting held at a red likely won't measurably alter your commute, and yet, murmuring. A cyclists splits the lane and jumps the queue at a red light, the first of many, and horn murmuring.

Of course I'm using scripture to justify my aggressive maneuvering in traffic, but the inappropriateness makes it no less true. Traffic is not a zero sum game. It's a vessel filled with rocks into which we pour sand--it's an inefficient system with grossly unrealized capacity.

Cyclists and pedestrians are that sand, those 11th hour vineyard laborers. And the assumption of the early morning hires and of motorists is that the good fortune that befell the late hires and cyclists is repeatable, that it is consistent. In fact, it's not consistent and this perception stems from a microscopic context. The last grape pickers to be hired got a great deal, but they almost went home empty handed; they spent nearly the entire day sweating whether they'd be hired at all and envying the early hires who knew they'd be getting paid and in fact knew all day. And the cyclist may jump this queue but he had to sweat the very real threat of vehicular manslaughter since...the whole trip.

What I'm trying to say is don't honk, it makes you look like a whining ass. And Jesus is watching.

This is the third vehicularism experiment update. Here's the original post and first and second updates.