Traffic jams and freezing time

The other night I was stuck in a really long traffic jam. It was 2am and I had a one hour drive home, and about ten minutes from home traffic came to an abrupt halt.

The radio said the jam was reported to take one hour.

Meanwhile traffic had started crawling at a very slow pace.

So I did what I always do in such situations. I chose an “adversary”. When I was young, I was stuck in a traffic jam and my dad was driving, and I asked him why he didn’t change lanes all the time – there was always one lane going faster, why shouldn’t we be there?

(Time moves slowly when you’re younger so traffic jams were quite an excruciating experience for me).

My dad told me that he’d tried that in the past, and had reached the conclusion that it hardly even matters – you don’t make more than a few car lengths of progress. He told me to pick a car from the other lane, and that I would see that in a while I’d probably still see the other car.

So now, 20 or so years later, I was doing the same thing. Picking an adversary.

As it so happened there was an unoccupied taxi standing in the lane to my left. The driver was dark skinned with a mustache. He would do.

There was nice music playing on the radio so I wasn’t too bothered at having to wait. I was tired, but a tired mind can be quite imaginative, and driving in the middle of the night with my adversary to my left and good music on the radio was quite a pleasant experience.

Then his lane started moving faster.

Should I switch? Whenever I do the other lane suddenly starts moving slower, and I regret switching. Also, that would ensure victory for my adversary – at this point he was so in front I could barely see him.

So I stayed my course, and watched the other lane move faster and faster. Then, after a while, things changed. Suddenly my lane was the one moving faster. Much faster. It wasn’t long before I could see my adversary again, and a few minutes later I had passed him. Then a bus that was in front of me switched lanes and suddenly I was so much past the taxi – I could no longer see the taxi that was ahead of it even!

Let me tell you, no one was happier in that traffic jam than me in those minutes. I was on the right track, things were going smoothly, life had never been better. Sure it was 3am and I was a bit tired, and being stuck in a traffic jam for forty minutes is no cup of tea.  But… I was winning!

Then suddenly things changed again. The adversary’s lane started moving faster. I could still switch lanes, or I could stay. I was faced again with the same choice, only from a position of power.

I was in anguish. What was I supposed to do? Things were going so well, and now it was slipping out of my control. If I made the wrong choice, I would go from a universe in which I’m gliding along happily at 5 kilometers per hour with not a care in the world, to one in which I’m plodding at 4, tired, cold, fed up and defeated.

If only I could freeze time and have things not change, everything would be perfect.

The same thing happened to a friend of mine. He had talked on the phone with a girl from an online dating site, and had a really fun and long conversation, at the end of which they had decided to meet. Since then they had talked again and sent each other several text messages. My friend really liked this girl and he was really excited. But, he told me, he was very scared. He didn’t want her to turn out to be someone he doesn’t get along with. He so liked the current situation – where there was a great girl he was about to meet – excitement, full of potential. He didn’t want the reality to collapse, because he knew there was a very real risk that during the date he would find out they actually didn’t get along that well for some reason, and that would be that, he would go back to his difficult job and his regular life and be alone again.

It’s funny how we are so worried about things becoming worse, when we really have no control over it most of the time. Life is a rollercoaster – things will get better and worse and better and worse and better and worse again and again and again. You can’t continually climb up – everything that goes up must come down. And then go up. And come down. I just hope that next time when I’m on top and the other lane starts moving faster, I’ll make my rational decision (to stay in the lane or switch – probably stay  – I’m lazy), accept that it might be the wrong one and move on with my life.

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Someone’s got to do it

I hurt my back the other day, not sure exactly what it was, but since then it hurts and moving my head to the side hurts as well. A bit more complicated sleeping like that, and also unpleasant in general.

I take this as a sign – the entire body is tied together, and I haven’t been doing much physical exercise lately (besides walking), and am spending most of every day sitting in front of my computer screen, not necessarily in the healthiest pose.

Ten years ago, when I was depressed, I started doing pushups every two days. I thought it would be a good thing to stick to, and it was – I stuck to it for several years, and only really stopped once I started going to kung fu lessons, since my body felt so exhausted from the kung fu there didn’t seem to be much point to the pushups anymore.

But I’ve stopped going to kung fu and the pushups haven’t come back. And somebody needs to take care of my body – it will make me feel better, stronger, healthier and less tired. It’s obviously a smart decision to exercise, but whenever I think about it there are always easier and more pleasant things to do and I avoid it.

But somebody has to start taking care of me if I want to have a good life. I’m no longer a kid who lives with his parents, I don’t have a structured life like I did in school or in the army. The only structure I have is that with which I provide myself, and it will have an important role in shaping my day to day life.

So I’ve made a new administrative decision – during my five working days every week, I will spend twenty minutes in the morning doing some combination of exercising and cleaning my flat. Stretching, pushups, situps, stuff like that – it’s very easy to pass twenty minutes when stretching is part of your routine. I think this will be good for me and will have a pervasive yet positive (if there is such a thing) influence on the rest of my life.

Wish me luck!

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So, now would be a good time to say that I am really into computer games. Have been since I was eight years old. And one of the things that drives me crazy is flaming in multiplayer games.

It happened today on two separate occasions, both while I was working (online poker player yo).

First I make a bluff at the end of a hand and get called, and then a player who wasn’t involved says in chat “he got you Jew boy”.

I mean… really? I hate racists, it really pisses me off. But when someone writes something on the internet they have a lot of power – they can’t be harmed. I’ve tried talking back to people like this in the past, and what you get is usually an endless tirade of aggressive, ignorant racist nonsense and there really is no way of getting through, and all it does is get me pissed off more. Thank god there is a mute button.

The second was also in a poker hand. Here I won the hand and someone at the table asked what I had and I answered. So this guy (who lost, not the one who asked) says “Yeah right you liar”, and proceeds to disbelieve everything I say. The conversation went something like this:

“You really expect me to believe that? How stupid do you think I am?”

“Man… I have no reason to lie to you”

“You have no reason to tell the truth either”

“If you want give me your email or skype, I’ll send you the hand”

“I don’t need you to send it to me I know you’re lying”

And so on and so forth. Just annoying (I wasn’t lying). I don’t know what the solution is to this issue. In real life I think it happens less because people have more inhibitions, but when you’re an anonymous avatar on the internet, all the gloves seem to come off.

So should I just mute more and more, or is there some better solution?

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Speed dating

I went speed dating a few days ago. I first learned about speed dating while watching the movie “Hitch” with Will Smith. Towards the end of the movie the main characters meet and try to have a conversation at a speed dating event.

The way it works is like this: you have a large number of women, each sitting at a table, tables in some circular formation.

An equal number of men, each sits at a table with one of the women, and they have seven minutes to talk about whatever they want. Every seven minutes a gong is sounded, and you rotate.

It was… awkward. At least at first. You get to meet a lot of different types of people, and experience many different interactions. As the evening wears on, people become more relaxed and tired, and conversations drift from “how old are you, what do you do for a living, where are you from” to telling stories from kindergarden, and “what kind of animal would you like to be (no cats and dogs allowed)”.

Overall it made me realize something a bit painful. I am not as charming as I wish I was – not every single girl in the world would be happy to be with me. In fact, most wouldn’t, and the fact that I didn’t want them either doesn’t soften the blow as much as you would think. Some people, most people… don’t mesh so well romantically. Sitting with someone you can often tell extremely fast that they aren’t for you, and, unsurprisingly for my brain but a bit of a shock for my ego, it goes both ways.

So what am I going to take away from this?

Well, first of all I have one phone number. I think I’m sufficiently recovered that I should be able to call her tomorrow, she seemed like a nice girl and although the details of each person sort of blur into each other after twenty five separate dates in the span of three hours, it’s worth giving her a chance.

Secondly, I think the next time I go on a date, I’ll be less nervous. It honestly doesn’t matter so much what you do – it’s not supposed to be difficult to get along with someone compatible. There really is nothing to worry about, and hopefully this dating marathon will let that lesson sink in a bit more – because I really do have no regrets – the girls whose numbers I didn’t get, really weren’t that great for me anyhow.

Third, bruised ego. That’s what happens when you collide head on with reality. It hurts, but you get over it, and you are a more realistic and relaxed person as a result.

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