2. Traffic Jams

December 1, 2007. Filed under writing 31

Somehow I find myself in a car hurtling down Interstate 75 towards Atlanta. This is made a bit more distressing by the fact that I am the one guiding the mechanical beast through ephemeral gaps between other large mechanical beasts who regard my personal safety with the proper modern indifference.


Hmm. Maybe I should focus on driving, but I just realized I never explained where I am going. I am not a habitual packer of suitcases or driver on long trips. Instead, it turns out, I have both a purpose and a destination.

If my father wasn't snoring in the passenger's seat, I would try to convey my purpose in a contrived conversation, but I am afraid I will simply have to explain without any dialog to foster a false impression of impartiality.

The purpose is a job in something called Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program, or more simply: JET. I've already signed their year long contract to teach English. The destination is a small town that has too weak a gravitational pull to exist outside of its physical location and a few silent memories never recorded outside of diaries. I am heading towards this place that has not yet given proof of its existence except for a piece of paper inside an internationally mailed envelope. More mysterious than the town, is this job I have accepted.

What do I actually know? A quick mental inventory of pertinent knowledge:

  1. a once lush rain-forest lies barren to facilitate the endless packets I have received that are full of official propaganda that relishes the usage of phrases like "International Exchange" and "Fostering Cultural Understanding",
  2. a summer friend's stories,
  3. an hour with a friend of my mother's,
  4. a hundred anonymous voices on the Internet,
  5. three emails with my predecessor,
  6. one email from my supervisor,
  7. and one motto that I can't decide whether to label as distressing or as hopeful: "Every Situation is Different."

Staring at the tightly packed mass of angry truckers, soccer moms, and lost souls crowded around me, I am forced to accept that even a carefully wrought conversation couldn't conceal one awkward truth: the sum of my knowledge is adequate for little more than breeding Will-O-Wisps in the sulfuric marsh I occasionally refer to as my future.

Th slow traffic placates my unrest. I am anxious, but for now a traffic jam is a comforting presence. Something I can peacefully reduce to causes and effects, and cleanly merge into my world view. Will I often long for traffic jams in the upcoming year?