The Silence of Traffic

I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in months, and perhaps it’s starting to show on my psyche. Life just seems more surreal the less sleep I get—or at least more interesting things happen when I’m not sleeping. A while ago, I pulled up behind a truck bearing a “radioactive” sign. After my trite, out-loud, “Holy Fucking God Almighty!” response—typically reserved for when I sleep through my alarm and end up late to work—I fumbled in my bag and grabbed my silver-and-grey camera and lined up a shot of the back of the truck. After this I passed the truck and tried to get as far away as possible before slowing down.

Unfortunately I didn’t get far enough ahead before slowing down, because a few minutes later the truck came barrelling down and around me, cutting me off and wobbling noticibly side-to-side as it went by. Abstractly, I noted that I was nearly in an automobile accident involving nuclear material. I didn’t think about it until the commute home a couple days later, but I was able to pull a silver-and-grey camera out of my bag (twice) and take pictures of this thing without anything happening to me. There were no black-jumpsuit-clad men to drag me away to jail, smash my camera, and steal my laptop for daring to take pictures of That We Don’t Speak Of.

I thought about this because traffic conspired to let me merge into the middle of a real “security” convoy: a seemingly-armored black Cadillac, followed by the ubuquitous Unmarked White CapriceTM flanked front and aft by black Suburbans, all four with heavily-tinted windows and multiple large radio antennae. This time around, I forgot my camera until it was too late, likely for the best.

The night before the security convoy, there was a fifty-or-so strong feminist protest march down the street outside (which is the main drag through the campus in this town), complete with the usual over-the-top police response—low-flying helocopters, sirens, lights, etc. For the few seconds it took them to pass by it felt like I was in D.C. or Chicago, the typical destination for my Fight The PowerTM activities. I suppose 28 Days Later’s reactionary ethos and postwar-liberal bias was more blunt than earlier zombie movies, because I suddenly thought of Salina’s backstory: “It started off as rioting. But right from the start you knew this was different. Because it was happening in small villages and market towns.” (I live at least thirty minutes away from any city to speak of, and five minutes in any direction there are cornfields as far as the eye can see.)

I was about to join the march, but they were gone by the time I put down my laptop (oooh, deep, ‘n shit). Strangely enough, I was RSVPing to someone who wanted me to speak at an “anti-Bush rally” organized by the World Can’t Wait coallition. I ended up turning the invitation down because I have to work weekdays and simply cannot afford to get arrested and spend a week in jail. At least not in the first couple months on the job—you need to have some vacation time for that :-). I did provide a bunch of positive-type suggestions (e.g. cookies, homeless kitchen, teach-ins) on how to avoid the standard malaise that affects most RCP-organized events, so hopefully it won’t be just a bunch of stage-managed, slogan-ridden, screeching masquerading as change; but my criticism is just as empty, I won’t be there.

The other night I missed the White Sox taking the World Series because I was explaining the concept of packet headers and the OSI model to my neighbor. The celebration culminated in a what could’ve easily turned into a sports riot, eventually petering out around 2am. I also noted that there were more cops at the feminist march (e.g., they had “air support”) than at the thousand-strong, drunken, sports celebration.

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s an entire world that exists under the veneer of televisions and shopping, ATMs and security cameras, blogs and flamewars. It’s a world where radioactive materials are openly moved around by bad drivers while VIPs get more guards driving by the cornfields of Illinois than some monarchs, protesters are harrassed by the police for marching against rape while thousand-strong wannabe riotous sports fans are left unmolested, and anarcho-dropout computer geeks are asked to speak to formerly fellow-students on behalf of the communist party.

Like I said, surreal.

P.S.: I should probably also mention to any law enforcement types who come across this post: I dutifully removed any distinguishing marks from the photos, so there really isn’t a need to smash my camera and take my laptop [insert weakly-smiled ‘hee hee’ here].
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One thought on “The Silence of Traffic

  1. Well you didn’t see what you think you did. you freaked yourself out. he was haulin radioactive material like a mri machine or an xray machine. the goverment would do that they wouldn’t put a sign on it. you have been close to a nuclear bomb and probly didn’t even know it they don’t have to have signs or anything on the trucks cause they do not have to follow any local or federal laws. Meaning they don’t have to stop for police or at weigh stations. what that truck was haulin was enough energy to over cook a hot pocket (hehe). I know this cause i come from a long line of truckers. my email is junior_0983@hotmail.com if you have any questions about trucking.

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