An Affection Rant on the Virtues of City Traffic

One half hour. That ‘s the time I give myself to drive the kids to pre-school. A half hour doesn’t faze me, especially now that we’ve moved to the country. I spend my morning commute on a dirt road and unobstructed highway, listening to books on tape or the kids counting cows out to pasture. A bucolic valley, with its lake and mountains to the east and west, stretches out before us like a giant welcome mat to our day. It’s not a bad commute. Not bad at all.

When I lived in downtown Manhattan, I’d give myself at least thirty minutes to get anywhere below 59th street. Locations above that point required a good forty-five, especially after we moved to Brooklyn. Living in an urban environment and having to get your kids to school or yourself to work, day after day, can be a time-sucking, nerve-grating test of the soul.

Occasionally, I’ll hear country locals grumble about morning “traffic”, generally referring to a slow (but steady) picturesque transit down a two-mile stretch of village, which might take a whopping twelve minutes to clear. These complaints are serious and heartfelt to which I can’t help but respond with an insuppressible and condescending chuckle. Traffic? Not in my book.

I’ve caught wind of complaints on the line at a local farm’s BYOB Burger Night. We’re talking twenty minutes of standing in the fresh air, klean kanteen in hand, filled with your favorite chilled wine, as your kids run wild through sunflower fields to the sound of live bluegrass music. Young farmers with perfect teeth, offer effusive thanks for your patience, and serve up organic grass-fed burgers on homemade buns and a bed of greens harvested that same day. As you go to pay and realize you’ve forgotten “preferred” cash, they accommodate your Visa with a square reader… yeah, so many reasons to complain there.

Sure, I’ve seen some long lines at the fancy market on Monday mornings when folks wait for the weekly delivery of a certain coveted craft brew that sells out by noon. Do I feel sorry for these beer enthusiasts (which on occasion includes my husband)? Not so much. My sympathy is with the out-of-luck out-of-staters, who risk paying a 200% mark-up on a four-pack, if they can get their hands on one.

Honestly, the only waiting I’ve done since moving to the country is for the seasons to change. Yes, there is the occasional line at the local apple orchard during Harvest Fest when three people are ahead of you on the homemade donut line. And while this sort of reminds me of my Smorgasburg days in Brooklyn, the donut here is fifty cents instead of five dollars.

Speaking of apples, when you’ve sat in traffic for four hours driving upstate from Brooklyn to pick-your-own, on a weekend when every other family in New York City is doing the same, and arrived at a scene akin to Union Square, only with a dirt floor and less produce, to find the trees picked over and the gift shop sold-out of everything but oven mitts, you better believe you savor every bite of that one, bruised honey crisp you tackled on the ground of the parking lot, which you pass among your family members on the four hour drive back to the city. That’s some character-building appreciation, right there!

You see, when you’ve elbowed your way through the masses, when you’ve endured gridlock on 42nd Street and Broadway, the smog on the BQE, or have pushed a double stroller through the hoards of bargain shoppers on Canal Street, when you’ve carried the stigma of the bridge and tunnel like a lead messenger bag and dealt with rush hour on the GWB (don’t even get me started on Chris Christie) on a Friday of a holiday weekend, you know the meaning of traffic: the grinding, polluted, inching forth in a maze of potholes, billboards and noise – through a sea of intense humanity.

Please note, I say all of this with the greatest affection for the place I live and the place I’ve come from. Which is why, dear reader, friend – I am grateful for the smooth commutes, the apple laden boughs, the village “traffic,” and if I ever become so spoiled living in the country that a slow moving tractor or a rafter of turkeys, throws me into a fit of road rage (although, nothing is worse than getting stuck behind a monster truck manure spreader) kindly send my butt back to the city for some good old-fashioned grid-lock.

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