A man in a sharp yellow shirt with a crisp, pointed collar and a smile that is too wide sits down next to you on as the bus rattles down Route 66 and begins speaking in a casual tone.
I love roads. I absolutely adore them. The sheer subtle brilliance of the idea of codifying travel. Of facilitating and restricting it at the same time. I thought railroads were the tops when they started cropping up, but nothing, and I mean nothing, beats highways. You know why? Access, sure, and convenience, but most of all choice. Or the illusion of it anyway. It is brilliant! It is gorgeous…
It used to be if you wanted to get to from here to there you’d walk. Or ride, I guess. I’m not that old. Sure there were paths and even some roads. Romans loved their roads, after all, but if it wasn’t the fastest route, most people had no problem setting out across country. Railroads were a nice step, but no one ever really believed they could go where they want. Everyone knew if you wanted to get to Santa Fe you’d have to pass through Topeka, regardless of whether your riding Rock Island or a Chief. There was something to be gained in the way rails could doom or ensure the future of townships, but that ended after the early years. A love affair grown stale.
But now there are highways. Perfect highways.
Each one winds here and there following a combination of half-remembered migrations from the past and the arbitrary restrictions of ownership and right of way laws. Plain to track, track to path, path to road, road to highway. Each step writing itself into the public belief. Each one solidifying itself as it grows and stagnates. And now each one beckoning to every individual with a car “Look at me! Follow me! I can take you anywhere!” Which is, of course, patently untrue. Delightfully so. An untruth that Americans have so completely bought into that your makers have started selling you automobiles based entirely on the premise of Freedom. “See the land! Have an adventure! Explore!”
Yes. Explore the same blacktop every other local pursues. Follow the path that countless men toiled to prepare before you while celebrating your bold nature. Be led down the identical routes as everyone else, never looking for what exists beyond the median and a few nice vistas beyond your windscreen. Chose to abstain from choice and follow the easy path.
That’s what I love about highways. Blinders, bindings, power, and placebo all rolled into the same package, and all inflicted on yourself. It is baffling. It is beautiful! It is so, so gorgeous…