The Charms of Traffic

Miroslava - Sofia, Bulgaria
Entered on January 12, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in the power of traffic jams. In fact, I believe that everyone should get stuck in one every once in a while. It is a refreshing experience, worth the accompanying frustration, if you know how to handle it properly.

Indeed, traffic jams often feel like a waste of your time. Precious seconds are ticking away while you are entrenched between that cab, the flashy silver Cadillac, and the decrepit Trabant (an antiquated car brand). Observed from above, the jam must look like a colorful a-thousand-pieces-that- glow-in-the-dark puzzle. Most Type-A people like me, though, find being part of this puzzle annoying at the least. After all, we are modern citizens, living in the sweet frenzy and rush of an urban world. Not to mention the entrepreneurs and business people who believe in the old adage that time is money. We are all scurrying to reach the sacred point A or dash through place B on our way to destination C.

Thus, having to stop and wait for over an hour among tens or maybe hundreds of other cars with equally hurried and frustrated people is not the perfect commute. However, we have no choice. I am a devotee of efficiency, so I have tried myriad activities to pass the time when faced with such a dire situation on my way home on the 76 bus. Combing my hair, writing poetry, reading books for school, and listening to the political musings of old and young people alike are a few of my favorites. Nevertheless, I just recently figured the best way to spend your stay in a traffic jam. It was what also convinced me of the benefits of having to wait so much.

It is the simple act of looking around. It may be people-watching or watching through the window and carefully noticing the world. In fact, I was surprised to find out there were actually so many little charming streets along Tsarigradsko Shose (the major boulevard in my city). I was further astonished when I realized how different all the people around me were. You can really see amazing details when you slow down. You can see, for instance, how cheerful the kids and adults on the Ariana ice rink are. Or how pretty and vivid those buttercups in the McDonald’s alley are.

As I mentioned early, we are hurried people. So hurried, that we often lose grip of what is really important, sinking into petty everyday problems. That is why I believe that a traffic jam is the time to slow down and take a good look around. After all, being stuck in traffic for one hour a day (a nominal amount) for every work day adds up to roughly 250 hours per year. Ten whole days and more. It is up to you to choose whether to spend those days in a frustrated futility or in a useful reflection.