Overlooking The Obvious (Wow! What a View!)

Evacuation in a heartbeat…

The ingredients are carefully shelved in the rhetoric around us. Some canned, dry or stale, others more package than product. We know and feel, but do not act on the metaphor. Extension is poetic or “told ya’ so”, but rarely deductive.

Yesterday’s deservedly moribund metaphor “energy heart attack”, having moved from the “Situation Room”, through Operating Room and into morgue, met its maker without serving anything but a passing literary fancy. Its brief, impotent life leaving no will, no next of kin.

It’s all over the road, the heart metaphor, that is. We even use the word “arteries” or refer to “traffic flow” or evolve our cars into softer, rounder, cell-like containers. Cars are now self propelled – the wheels are the flagella that fluid-propelled bloodcells don’t need. Our vessels become a waterslide when the heart is not into it.

So when we evacuate our cities, pumping our citizens to higher ground, what do we learn from this metaphor? Not much, the Observatory gathers.

The evacuation process is, by any account, slow, frustrating and energetically inefficient. Thousands of cars will line up in each lane on one side of the highway, crawling, braking and overheating in short sinusoidal ripples that resemble the movement of a Slinky or millipede. On the other side of the highway is a barren asphalt wasteland. Stray vehicles pass – the emergency crews, the reporters, the fools. Not even enough to fill a single lane.

If only the outgoing lanes could widen, and the incoming lanes narrow down.

Viagra Highway.

Viagra is a vasodilator, allowing the free flow of blood to the desired region, while less traffic is allowed back. In the end, the blood ends up in the end, and a good time is had by Al. A vasodilator, used properly, can allow a bias in haematic traffic, just as a vasoconstrictor can. If not for these natural processes, we couldn’t stand being erect.

A few months ago, while in Montreal, I caught a photo of Viagra Highway being applied to rush-hour traffic. One lane of our side of the highway was reversed. The bias statedly favored demand appropriately during each rush hour, creating a sort of metropolitan circadian cycle, presumably even harmonious with our own – blood out during daily activity, blood in at night during rest.

Then, as I recall, Florida became host to a hurricane, and Viagra Highway was prescribed to relieve the pressure. A job well done. But as civic history has it, a job well done is not worth repeating. Enter Texas, September 21st through 23rd, 2005.

The images on virtually every newscast showed streams of traffic gelatinized on one side of the highway. On the other side, a nearly vacant ribbon of tar lay pining for the taste of burnt rubber. Why this was left untouched remains a mystery to me. But it does solve another mystery for me…

The greatest proof of intelligence elsewhere in the universe is that they haven’t come here.

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