This will never become a book.

2012 June 8 Friday

Alien Driving Test

Filed under: reality — kdefg @ 22:27

I once had a friend describe the traffic situation in the city as something an alien race must have invented to test humanity for intelligence.  At least this is how I remember him saying it; I do not recall whether or not he seriously believed it.

Imagine a world in which all of life’s troubles are actually put there in front of us by design, by a superior entity, for the purpose of challenging us.  If we succeed, we are not immediately rewarded, but we have earned bonus points towards our final score.  When we pass enough tests, we might then be promoted to the next level of existence.  Chances are, sadly, that we would not join the ranks of the ones running the tests, but instead are only confronted with more difficult challenges.  This is the way of video games.  As far as I know, Life doesn’t come with cheat codes.

On the other hand, my friend’s explanation for traffic has its own merits.  The aliens don’t control any other aspects of our lives, just the driving of motor vehicles.  When someone cuts in front of you on the highway, you can remind yourself that it’s all part of The Test.  That driver has no idea who you are, so there is no point in cursing back at him.  Instead, focus on staying alive and driving well, and curse the aliens later.  When they see that you have become aware of the situation, you will be snatched off this miserable planet to join them in enlightened splendor.  Perhaps you will then learn to drive their space vehicles.

Of course you could take this even further and imagine that the road and your driver seat are just part of an elaborate simulation.  Most of the time, driving can be pretty dull, and the windshield starts to look like a projection screen.  But then someone comes at you, driving the wrong way down your lane, and it is best to remember that this situation has very real consequences.  You cannot control the elements outside your car, you cannot even trust them to be in control themselves, you can only do your best to get out of their way.  You pass the test by staying alive.

I’ve turned the wrong way down a one-way street myself once or twice, but have always been lucky enough to realize it without meeting another car head-on.  I’ve also been lucky to be far enough back when another car took a turn too sharply and crossed into my lane right in front of me.  I hit my brakes and watched his trajectory as it completed an arc and continued past my front bumper into the next lane.  I sat there, stopped in my lane, for a good few seconds of stunned disbelief, both at his recklessness and my own good fortune.  If I had been only a few feet further down the road at that moment, my day would have gone quite differently.

I never did see that driver’s face.  Maybe it was an alien after all.



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