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June 05, 2005

driving

小莊- good job on that "Kay's back" comment.

I haven't blogged enough these 2 years. And now American suburban life seems to take away lots of my abilities to speak of my thoughts, or rather, ability of generating thoughts.

Office, highway, my desk and bed comprise all places I stay, almost for everyday. The only time I am really alone with my mind - if it's still clear after 10 hrs of office work - I'm in the car with the rest of tens of thousands of Long Islanders who get stuck in traffic every morning and afternoon. Driving to work for almost a year now- commuting with personal vehicle never earns my favor, but there's some fun part if one does pay attention to his/her daily 25 mins trip on the highway.

At first, I thought driving was very impersonal. I grew up in big cities and have always been a big city girl. I loved the subway and bus when I lived in New York City. Watching people is a fun thing when taking public transportation. And the friendship and relationship people build with each other by taking the same train or bus, especially for peak hour commuters, gives me a subtle warmth and comfort. Exchanging smiles with the stranger friend who always takes the 6 train 8 AM with you, being squeezed together inside the overcrowded car.

There's no such relationship for drivers. 7AM, you warm up engine, signal, speed up, and go. Avoiding crazy aggresive drivers and cursing at them when being tailgated are pretty much what I do during my 25 mins trip to work. People who're sharing the same lanes with me at the same time of the day don't have a face. They're just different makes of cars, different years, in different colors. To others on the highway, I'm just a silver gray Nissan. Yet, after driving on a fairly regular schedule for months, there seems to be something offering some personal "spices" to driving. (Or maybe it exists because I've searched so hard..) Although cars aren't like human who have unique faces and facial expressions that we can tell one from the other, some cars do have features that make them recognizable.

Custom license plates is one. There's a minivan i have followed quite a few times on my way home, whose license plate is "DAD4SONS". And the person actually lives in the same building with me. There's also a Mercedes with a MD plate(special plate for doctors) who always cuts other drivers off like she's in a big hurry - the way she drives, phew, she may rush to the ER in time, but more likely dead and not able to save someone's life...OK, now I'm being mean, because she really gets on my nerve. You see how this becomes personal now? I wonder if other drivers think about and look at daily commute the same way. It's still sad that suburban commuteres connect to people whom they share the same air and land with so little; even I have found this cute fun extra thing for driving, people around me are still numbers, letters, or a glance of their left sides of face at most. To be honest, it's actually hard to find suburban advocates who believe in sharing. Relationship with strangers? That probably means invasion of personal privacy. As a planner, the situation appears to be a chicken and egg problem - did we create the environment that stops people from connecting to each other, or do people chose to live this way and drove the market to provide isolated bubbles for them? Either way, I feel we architects, planners and urban designers are responsible. (how did I get so serious?!)

Daily highway commute is still very stressful to me no matter what. I do wish I could do something about it - getting used to it, enjoying driving, or even fighting to influence the driving culture, but I think I gave up. I'm gonna escape and run away from all these soon.

God bless suburban America...

Posted by kay at June 5, 2005 07:57 PM

Comments

Interesting view, do people move to the suburbs because they want to live in a bubble?

Posted by: Eugene at June 5, 2005 09:40 PM

Welcome back, Kay! I miss your blogs!!

Posted by: Wai at June 8, 2005 03:38 PM

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