The Tipping Point

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The Tipping Point

Animal species in great numbers can be quite stunning to look at. We’ve all seen those TV underwater specials where schools of brightly coloured fish come and go as one entity. Or a herd of zebra running together can be an awesome sight.

Sometimes, when nature’s balance is upset, great numbers can seem very disconcerting to view, as it was in the spring of 2012 when TV news showed abnormally large flocks of birds converging in the American Midwest  The reason, scientists said, was due to the very mild winter of 2012. Many fewer birds died as a result and the effect was a sky black with birds that people unfortunately had to deal with. Yuck!

I was thinking of nature’s unbalance yesterday while driving the streets of Montreal. Something’s wrong, I thought, something’s terribly wrong. OK, I reasoned, perhaps the blocked arteries were due to the steady downpour of rain, although I know that I don’t drive necessarily that much slower in the rain, but whatever.

I was on my way to a 3 PM appointment to an office building on the Trans-Canada Highway service road. I thought that I would give myself 20 minutes to get there from Decarie Square…

A strong thought which has begun to invade my thoughts lately is: Where have all these cars come from? It reminds one of an insect invasion when you see every road – not just the one you happen to be on – filled with those nasty little crawling unpredictable beasts called automobiles (and it’s a wonder I don’t see more accidents, in fact, none to date).

I know, I know, I’m driving too. But if I didn’t have a country home I think that I might opt for public transport to go around the city. The thought of being seated in a bus (which of course isn’t always the case) reading a book on my kobo is kind of nice. Or I could meditate, something which, er, I’ve been doing for 43 years now.

In fact, I’m days away from purchasing a second-hand bicycle for the pleasant 12-minute ride to work. Goodbye car!

But yesterday, during the downpour, stuck in traffic, seeing highways, service roads, regular roads, side streets all simultaneously blocked bumper-to-bumper, all I could think is: Something’s terribly wrong. And this was relatively early in the afternoon!

When I left my appointment at 5:30 PM little had changed. Other cars had replaced the ones blocked two hours earlier (I feel sorry for those people living in Montreal’s West Island, even in Ville Saint-Laurent, who have to endure this on a daily basis. There is no good excuse why the City of Montreal never extended the subway system to the western part of the island).

If one should be lucky enough, in taking what is believed to be a detour, to glide down roads with less traffic, the nightmare isn’t over. Montreal streets are notoriously bumpy and filled with potholes, and driving on them feels incredibly worse if you’re driving an older car as I am. The people running the city and the surrounding suburbs don’t seem to know how to fill a pothole without creating another serious bump. Don’t try drinking your coffee while driving in Montreal; it’ll either spill all over you or the mug that you’re precariously holding will break a tooth!

On the radio, during the interminable drive home, I heard that Montreal police had just conducted a giant drug bust.

“No!” I found myself shouting at the radio. “Don’t arrest these guys! Help them open “drug stores” all over the city!”

With nightmarish traffic getting worse and worse every year – and with more and more daring risk-taking drivers on the road (anyone heard that a “red light” means “stop”?) – I think that the time is ripe for people to seriously begin self-medicating themselves into a kind of peaceful oblivion. This might be the only solution for a future that I fear is just around the corner where one day, after one hour or one minute too many of wasting her time on the road, someone’s going to go berserk, as an unnatural wrinkle in nature hits the tipping point, and she’s just going to say “to hell with it” and start smashing indiscriminately into whichever vehicle is around.

There’s only so much a person can take.

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