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Accordion (Driving)

Few of us admit to be enamored by Accordions (per se). But when it comes to driving and stopping in traffic, most of us drive as though we were totally in love with the age old practice of stretching out and scrunching tightly together, as we do when we huddle and nestle around traffic signals. It seems that most drivers assume and truly believe, that they “inching on Heaven” with each centimeter that we close in on that vehicle in front of us to obtain a critical edge i.e. to sneak so close to the rear bumper of the car we are following; enough to count the hairs on the driver's neck. We pray that this “closeness” will reward us a head start, as if the inches and millimeters meant were the ultimate prize. (If you cannot virtually taste the exhaust of the vehicle in front, you must move inch closer.) When this writer beckons off back some four or fix car lengths back, anxious drivers behind beep treat me as an outlaw, transgressor or shoplifter stealing that valuable real estate, that will be forever lost if not bitten off and consumed “right now.”

Seems that drivers are so accustomed to periodic and rhythmic “packing and unpacking” —the density of cars over the highway mimics the movements of a bigger than life-sized A-C-C-O-R-D-I-O-N being played as drivers crowd and uncrowd, pack and unpack.; as they emulate and harken back to the torrents of traffic they've seen thousands of times before, i.e. a bit reminiscent of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Most seem to assume that there is no other way to drive, until they see some non-conforming offender (outlier) who refuses to join the throng. These intolerant operators foment heaping anger as act on their anger beeping and bleeping their ire and to signal a moral imperative, if you will, to “fall in line,” join the pilgrimage and to “pack tight” as if one of god's angels were judging them for perdition.

These denizens of the roadway deign no other way to act as they approach red lights, trained in the classics (of conditioning, Pavlovian style). They hardly notice that “packing in” serves to stall and strangulate headway ---even as some unlucky few in Mecca are trampled to death—and as they dote on others in the parade to wait their turn at the freshly minted green light and as the traffic teeteringly begins to unfold enroute for the next round (heaven and hell all in seconds). Those who prudently settle back say three to five car lengths, however, need only wait for the vehicle immediately ahead of them and they can move ahead swiftly as if they were unshackled by the mob mentality of manufacturing and dismantling traffic. But yet others in the crowded thicket, fail to see and appreciate what has just happened.

For this writer, an ex wife once suggested that the system of driving, without crowding and in sacrilege to accordion practice, only could possibly work if everyone did it, which is a bit like an alcoholic alluding to his insight that there was little use giving up drinking unless everyone else did so.