Friday, May 4, 2007


Armageddon came, but not the way we expected.

There was no nuclear war, no vast volcanic upheaval, not even so much as the courtesy of an alien invasion. It was a simple anomaly. A little glitch in the system that, because of just the right conditions, corrupted the whole of human civilization. Everything we'd built, everything we'd accomplished, everything we'd worked for, all of it. All of it lost. For nothing . . .

. . . just because Dave was trying trying to turn left out of a parking lot during rush hour.

People who turn left are a sort of innate problem to a right-laned society. The nature of a stop light is to manage straight-moving traffic from 2 different roads. People turning right have no problem in this setup, and in fact it's even easier for them since right turns can be made on red. Even though the stoplight system is really designed around straight-goers, the rightys have a sort of null effect and are allowed to work around the system. But left turners are another matter. Since they're trying to turn through the oncoming flow, a single lefty has to block everyone behind him until the conditions just happen to meet his needs. The only alternative to this is creating left-turn lanes, left-turn signals, and other such "special exceptions." People who turn left aren't a part of the system, they're jury-rigged into it.

When you try to turn left out of a parking lot where there's not even a stoplight to help, well, you're just taking humanity into your own hands.

You'd think that Dave would have figured it out after the first fifteen minutes. The stoplights on the road in front of him were releasing so much traffic that most of the street was constantly blocked. And when it did clear a little on one side or the other, he still had to deal with the occasional right-turner who came through either light. Then there was the parking lot across from him, just offset enough that he couldn't negotiate a simul-turn with the cars leaving it. If Dave had just realized how much time he was wasting, that he could have gotten home faster if he'd just been willing to take the slightly longer route, everything would have been fine.

But that's a thing with people. They can't deal with traveling ten feet to reach something that's only one foot in front of them, even if there's a brick wall in the way. They'd rather spend days trying to figure out a way through the wall.

So Dave sat there, and soon half the parking lot was full of cars waiting behind him. Even people who wanted to use the lot's other exit were out of luck, since many of them were blocked into their parking spaces by the waiting cars. The first fender accident didn't help things, and by 5:30 the lot was a hungry, honking mess.

No one was getting out of the lot, so no one was getting into it either. Unfortunately this didn't get noticed until one car was already half turned in, unable to move forward but still blocking the street. I suppose the blocked street wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't rush hour, and if the final game of the World Series wasn't scheduled for that night, 5 blocks away. From there it was pure snowball effect toward the End. One blocked road under those conditions meant a dozen more were frozen. The problem grew exponentially, until the entire city was shut down along with both of the major interstates that passed through it. And since the city was the major aeronautical hub for a whole section of the country, the airport was soon backed up with travelers who couldn't get cab rides. We were nearly saved from total destruction when the president ordered the planes to simply take all those people home and make them return later, but no one wanted to do it. Again, that "one foot away, ten feet of wall" problem.

The airlines were stressed from the loss of a major port, the roadways were crippled by the then-epic traffic jam, and no one was particularly happy about the World Series being called off. The snowball was rolling. A year later, somewhere in the rubble, Dave's blinker was still on.

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