Stuff to Do in Weeks-Long Traffic Jams

You’ve probably read about the stupefying 60-mile gridlock in China, which is entering its eleventh day. It makes my Bay Area commute or crossing Midtown Manhattan look like a day at the spa. Yes, I’m a man, and I enjoy spa days. Immensely.

When I moved back to San Francisco in 1999, I got stuck in a freak spring snowstorm in the mountains of Wyoming. I was stranded in a whiteout at the top of the hill for three hours, with only a half-bag of Rold Gold pretzels and a somewhat current copy of Playboy, which I had on hand just in case I wanted to read some intellectually stimulating articles while stuck in snowy traffic. By grace, my little VW and attached Uhaul trailer made it down the slope in one piece, and my ordeal was actually rather enjoyable. Very good articles in that issue.

"Madlibs and whiskey, here! Get your used Madlibs, here!

I’m not sure we can say the same for the poor people mired in the snaking metallic morass in China. Our good friends at The Christian Science Monitor blame China’s insatiable thirst for dirty illegal coal, but to me that smacks of right-wing pro-capitalism China-hating, even if it’s true.

Regardless, with any luck, most of the marooned travelers and truckers have decent phones and a car-lighter charger. Assuming they have access to The Smatter, they can try a few of the following distractions:

  1. Eat pretzels and READ Playboy. My experience proves this works really well. Unfortunately, local roadside merchants are charging 7 million Yuan for the basic snack/porn package.
  2. Sing every Michael Jackson song you can think of, loudly, in unison with your fellow highway prisoners of destiny. This is a little better than slitting your wrists with whatever local flotsam, or jetsam, is available.
  3. Start a tent city and make yourself king. This could get all Lord of the Flies pretty quick, but it would be fun to try.
  4. Walk home. Seriously. I think any of these people could’ve walked home by now, even in a country as gargantuan as China.
  5. Move to a non-Communist country with an ailing economy but high taxes where this inexplicable bullshit doesn’t happen. ‘Nuff said.
  6. Do Madlibs. That usually kept me and my sugar-addled brother occupied for hours on the construction-clogged arteries of I-75 in Ohio.

I have great admiration and respect for the people of China, be they illegal coal runners, wandering monks, or real estate tycoons. They have found a hybrid of old and new that works pretty well most of the time and fosters growth and competition around the globe.

But this is a goddamn 60-mile, 11-day traffic jam. All my infinite wisdom can muster is: WTF?

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