Morning traffic reflections

In this post I try to explain why all people Originalbild anzeigenthat drive to work and that are subsequently stuck in traffic look so grumpy in the mornings. Since I hope noone reads this after just commuting to work I only dare to publish this during the night…

In the mornings I either take the bus or bicycle to work. The bicycle is a matter of fun, fresh air and relaxation (unless it rains cats and dogs…). It also gives me plenty of time to just let my thoughts go astray and wander off, which frequently leads to particularly enlightening thoughts, or strange experiences. For example, there was this one time when I was so deeply in thought that I cycled past my home, which required me to cycle all the way uphill again. Or this other time, when I cycled into a car that was parked on the sidewalk…

The bus instead is a matter of convenience – I take it when I am tired and don’t want to undertake the 40 minutes bicycle trip. The bus is similarly relaxing as the bicycle, and my preferred habit on the bus is to simply look out of the window.

Since there is always a traffic jam of 5-10 minutes on the route, I get plenty of time to observe the car drivers on the way. And by golly do they look grumpy! I remind you, I am here talking about a short traffic jam in one of the richest countries of the world. Basically, these people in the traffic jam are wealthy enough to own a car, and if they drive into the city of Luxembourg then they tend to work in the financial sector, earning them a good salary, too. They should be happy about having a job, about having a sufficiently secure and high income – yet they are stuck in traffic and grumpy.

It does not matter if they drive a Fiat Punto, a Volvo, a VW Golf or the most expensive Mercedes – they all look grumpy. And the most grumpy of them all are those driving in Porsches, in big Jaguars, or Mercedes SLKs. And here is my theory why.

Forget all these advertisements that show you a car driving along an empty highway while all other cars are packed up in traffic jams. Forget the advertisements that tell you about freedom and how your off-road Jeep can get you to work faster. In the mornings, whatever car you are driving, you will be stuck in the same traffic jams just like everyone else.

And thus it is clear that it is all about opportunity cost. It does not matter whether you have a Porsche, a Mercedes SLK or a Fiat Panda – in the traffic jam they all roll at the same speed. Thus, it becomes clear to every car driver that the benefit of having a huge Porsche is just the same as the benefit of the Fiat Panda that is standing in the next lane. And that’s precisely the reason for which a Fiat driver laughs at the Porsche driver who is stuck in the same traffic jam as (s)he is: Your horsepower is as useless as my horsepower right now…

But – oh man – the opportunity cost is different! The guy who has the Fiat Panda spent so little on his car that he can actually use the time in the traffic jam thinking what he should do with all the money that he saved from not buying the Porsche; while the guy who bought the Porsche is thinking how he can pay back the loan on this useless car that only sounds good but still gets him stuck in traffic. So the lesson to take away is that, even if something sounds good, it may turn out to be as useful/useless as the rest.

So back to the traffic jams. There are findings that suggest “that longer commutes correlate highly with greater divorce rates, obesity levels, decreased exercise, and increased consumption of fast food.” Of course, if you drive in your car to work you get more stressed in the traffic jams. Also, you don’t do the same exercise as the person that just passed you on the bicycle, which implies you get fatter and thus your partner will be more attracted to another person – potentially the one that just passed you on the bicycle. And that is yet another reason why car drivers that are stuck in traffic jams and look out of the window look so grumpy, especially at the bicyclists that pass them.

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