38. Santa Fe Drivers

A strange thing happened to me when I arrived back in Santa Fe after two weeks at home in Brownbackistan Kansas. I was disoriented while driving around Santa Fe. For at least the first day and a half back, I was subject to random bouts of butt-clenching fear. “JESUS CHRIST!” I would scream as I was dramatically cut off for the fourth or fifth time by a Subaru (The Official Sponsor of Santa Fe). It’s been a few more days back now and I can gun yellow lights and haul blind turns without thinking twice like usual, but I was almost afraid that I had lost my mojo. I blame it on getting used to the somewhat more sane and organized driving back in the Midwest. Most of the drivers have their licenses, even!

Traffic in Santa Fe is a real world application of chaos theory. Cars zip across two to three lanes of traffic regardless of what may be standing in their path. Two lanes can be barren at one time while a twenty car conga line has developed in the left turn lane.The curb is not just an extension of the sidewalk, but a bonus part of the road. Nothing is off limits. Rules of reality and physics are suspended, up becomes down, and your mother becomes your father. Pure insanity.

Story time: Yesterday I was driving down Siringo Road with my good friend Mat. We were stuck behind a red Volkswagen going about 20 on a 25. Why he was going that slow, I have no fucking clue. Perhaps it was a religious holiday. We could see a growing line of cars forming behind us. All of them wondering why they couldn’t go 45 like normally. As the minutes dragged by, we could feel the collective frustration building behind us. After a period of time that might have been forever, we finally got to my turn. Rejoicing, I nearly shifted into the left lane when I noticed a blur in my rear view mirror. Jerking back into the Forever Lane of Slow Death, a car came hurtling past us. It missed by inches. One of the cars trapped behind us had gotten tired of paying his dues in Traffic Purgatory like the rest of us and had decided to exploit the turn lane as his own acceleration lane. Mat and I, who thirty seconds prior to this had declared the driver of the red Volkswagen the Dumbest Fucking Retard In The History Of Driving, immediately shifted the title to this man. We began speaking fondly of the red Volkswagen, admiring that at least you could never kill someone going 20 mph in a Volkswagen.

Experiences like these are commonplace. Video games try to portray driving games as realistically as possible, but to date the closest video game I’ve gotten to the experience of driving in Santa Fe is Mario Kart. You tend to stop noticing the near death experiences after a while and just surrender yourself to the vibrations. In this way, drivers in Santa Fe share a lot in common with military veterans and the people that kick up sand in Cambodia for land mines.

The city, of course, does everything it can to make the experience even more enjoyable. Construction crews and equipment serve as a further hazard on some of Santa Fe’s perpetually “under construction” streets. The “remodeling” of Cerillos took almost as long as the construction of the Great Wall of China (and with the same amount of manpower) and congested traffic to an absurd degree. Traffic has been bad enough that one could park his or her car, run to Burrito Spot and get some Super Nachos, and return to find that nothing had changed.

On a side note, I asked a police officer a few weeks ago why construction took so long, and he replied that they had to re-do the entire layout because ONE PERSON had gotten the dimensions wrong on the pipeline. This person is hopefully in jail.

From the perspective of someone safe in a traffic helicopter (if such things exist in Santa Fe), you could probably admire the beauty of it all. I’m sure there’s something majestic to observe in the many potential tragedies that are averted every day on the streets of Santa Fe as drivers bob and weave through traffic, treating their fellow drivers more as obstacles than fellow human beings. It certainly may provide evidence of a benevolent, gracious, and forgiving God. But to the lowly driver on the ground, the only philosophy that is reinforced is the idea that we should treasure every little second because we could die at any moment. Amen.

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