In Defense of Traffic Jams: Finding Peace in Commuting Chaos

I THOUGHT I KNEW visitors. Then I landed in Denpasar, on the Indonesian island of Bali, and caught a experience for the primary time. It was January 2019. As a driver inched my jet-lagged household and me by way of the streets, I had one thought: What. The. Fuck. Half the roads weren’t extensive sufficient for 2 vehicles to go. Cease indicators have been rarities. Canines darted between shifting autos. Soup carts parked in the center of lanes. Then a spiritual ceremony shut down the highway in entrance of us. A gamelan band performed calmly, by no means thoughts the hundreds of ready autos. Twelve miles and two hours later, we arrived in Canggu, the little expat neighborhood we might name residence. The din of motorbikes and honking horns rang in my ears for hours afterward.

I’d spent the earlier decade dwelling in Atlanta, the place visitors is a bloodsport and among the many worst in the nation. In 2014, a mere two inches of snow resulted in a 16-hour visitors jam. And that was earlier than half of I-85 caught hearth and collapsed, which made congestion much more atrocious. A good friend as soon as informed me that his divorce had an upside: He may lease an house close to work, to keep away from gridlock. I understood. Traffic fatigue was half the explanation I needed to depart Atlanta. However, having determined to maneuver to Bali with out having visited, I didn’t count on to land in a spot the place a three-mile errand may simply eat up an hour.

Studies suggest that the longer you sit in visitors every day, the much less happy you are typically. After just a few months in Bali, although, I observed that almost all of the drivers have been calm and stoic—nothing like Atlanta motorists. Ten thousand motorbikes may merge by way of a five-way cross with no stoplight as peacefully as water rolling by way of a streambed.

Seems, when visitors transcends to pure, unadulterated anarchy, with hundreds of autos clogging the streets, one thing chic occurs. You must settle for that you just’re not in management, that there isn’t any escape, and that there isn’t any sense in preventing it. The outcome isn’t chaos; it’s collaboration. Traffic turns into the work of a neighborhood to determine.

I additionally realized that, in this unrelenting gridlock, you don’t have any selection however to pay shut consideration to different drivers, most of whom in Bali are on motorbikes. Whenever you do, you see faces extra clearly. You discover the meals that individuals are bringing residence for dinner. And, quickly sufficient, your highway rage begins to fade.

Since shifting to Bali, I’ve met different Westerners who’ve come to attend yoga classes, to work on their presence and mindfulness. Yoga isn’t for me. However visitors has performed an analogous position in my life. In Atlanta, the sounds of a congested freeway may give me an nervousness assault. Now I placed on my helmet, kick-start my bike, hit the highway, and am pressured to decelerate.

I lapse into my previous methods typically, to make sure. On a latest Sunday morning, whereas making an attempt to select up chickens for a cocktail party that night time, I ended up trapped in a throng of motorbikes, with the tropical solar beating down. And, all of a sudden, there they have been—all these calm, stoic faces. Doesn’t anybody else have someplace to be?! Doesn’t it trouble anybody to sit down right here all day?!

As I made my solution to the entrance of the jam, I heard the rattle of a gamelan band, then noticed flowers and dozens of folks in white garments. It was a cremation ceremony. It was a small celebration for somebody who had, odds are, lived their entire life in this place. I felt silly for being in such a rush. I’d, like everybody else, get to the place I used to be going finally.


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