The traffic gods


Sometimes when I am anxious about work I wake up before six. Faint intermittent birdsong is suddenly dispelled by a crescendo roar. It’s the six o’clock rush hour. Twenty minutes later the crescendo subsides somewhat, maintaining itself as a wall of sound. I dose fitfully until the same roar is repeated at seven. Time to make a shape! Time to drive!
Wednesday, 8:10 am. Leave home late but the traffic gods smile on me as I find myself in a hollow of one of the waves, having just missed the 8 am rush. There is a lull and so I just keep moving. The lights are always green for me. Made it in 40 minutes!
Tuesday, 6:15 pm. As I drive in the dark at rush hour towards Blanchardstown via the Navan Parkway roundabout, I run up against commuters slowly heading out of the city centre. On the slip roads up to the packed junctions they inch, over Tara towards Navan or even as far as Cavan, pale winter faces caught in the light of oncoming vehicles. The twilight sky is darkening while we wait and wait and as I try to catch the wake of a juggernaut heading back into town, with Dev strapped safely in his cat basket on the back seat.


‘Frazzly, very frazzly’, the cardiologist said when he heard how I got to and from work.
‘But I’m a reverse commuter’, I replied. ‘My commuting life is easy compared to some’.
What would he say if I told him that I had managed to fit in a triangular trip to the vet in order to pick up the cat on my way home? Maybe I am trying to pack in too much. By a logical fallacy we justify putting up with something untenable by pointing out that things could be worse, or that things are much worse for other people.
Wednesday, 7: 50 am. Another day, another commute. It takes two hours to get to work driving through flood waters in murky grey weather. A truck suddenly pulls out in front of me on the dual carriageway, in order to avoid a huge pool of flood water blocking the inner lane. Luckily I brake in time. Perhaps a beneficent traffic deity is watching over me. A total of three hours spent travelling to and from work. When I get in, a colleague informs me that flood waters can destroy a diesel engine for good. Oops, another reason not to drive a diesel car. It’s been a strange autumn with hurricane Ophelia, floods and ice not to mention temperatures of 16 degrees in December. Another colleague asks how people can deny climate change.

Have a look at John Gibbons’s blog
Friday, 8 am. The same Mini is there travelling westwards along the quays beside me at St James’s Gate, and there too, as on Tuesday morning, is the man in the red Polo. ‘SO’ it says on his registration plate, prompting me to wonder whether he travels between Dublin and Sligo. They remind me of neighbours I used to meet on the way to work, except now there is no face to face, no nod of recognition, no ‘Good Morning’. Instead we glide past one another at the same part of the road at the same time, always on weekday mornings, always going west. By the M4/M50 interchange I have lost ‘Sligo man’ and ‘Mini woman’. Do they recognize my Golf every morning? Where are they going? What do they do? What name have they for me and my car?

Taking the tram to afternoon tea

Sunday, 3:30 pm. Taking the tram to visit friends for tea, I start to realize how long I have been in thrall to cars. They are starting to seem absurd now, each single driver in the metal box, hunched behind the wheel. Trams are quaint and Edwardian, fine for cities. But what about people who have small businesses and who need to transport stuff? What about people living in the country? I know now that I have been refusing to acknowledge the space and the time that the car and the commute take up in my head and in my life. Yes, I was wrong to buy a diesel engine, to think that I could drive to work forever without there being any consequences, for me or others. I suspect that the end of the internal combustion engine is nigh. Some day I will look back nostalgically at my driving days, the way older people used to reminisce about the trams. Like the existence of slavery upon which whole economies and empires were constructed, the internal combustion engine has its self-sustaining justifications. Yet slavery came to an end.

img 5305 kamakura tokyo yuki densha - train to tokyo


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