I thought this was about traffic jams but turns out it’s about guns, but it takes a while to get there
Living in New York means I’m often caught up in traffic. I often fantasize about getting out of the car and swinging a sledgehammer through the front window of the car ahead that’s blocking the intersection. Either people think they can get across the intersection when they can’t, or they simply don’t care whether they can get across or not. Either way, the result is gridlock.
I looked up the meaning of “gridlock” in Mirriam-Webster and it said “a condition where you can’t get your waffle iron open,” which wasn’t anything like what I was expecting it to say. Then I realized I was looking at “griddle-locked,” which is apparently most often observed after shopping at Kmart. “Gridlock,” on the other hand, is “a traffic jam in which a grid of intersecting streets is so completely congested that no vehicular movement is possible” which is pretty much exactly what I’m trying to describe.
In England, where I’m from, we don’t have gridlock. We have roundabouts.
What Webster’s doesn’t mention is that gridlock is often accompanied by the feeling of wanting a sledgehammer to smash car windows with. Neither does it mention the sound of horns, which is the sound most often identified with traffic jams. I was in just such a situation recently.
I have more than one sledgehammer fantasy.
In the first I walk confidently toward the car that’s blocking me, the sledgehammer hanging easily by my side, and proceed to swing it double-fisted through the front window of the car blocking my path. The driver, suitably scared out of his wits, remains in his car covered in shards of glass, while I stroll nonchalantly back to my car, climb in and drive away.
Onlookers watch in awe. They’re scared and with good reason. You’d have to be deranged to do something like this. I am deranged, but I’m also still in control. That the car in front is still preventing me from driving away doesn’t play into this fantasy. I couldn’t very well get back in the car and then just sit there looking out the window.
In the second and arguably more realistic version of this fantasy, the guy whose window I smash gets out of his car and comes after me – and this is way more likely because (a) this is New York, and (b) I am not particularly threatening looking. Justifiably, I think, he beats the crap out of me.
A variation to this second scenario is that I somehow get the sledgehammer stuck, or I attack a car equipped with aggression-proof glass and the sledgehammer bounces back off the window and I can hardly hold onto it because I was expecting it to go through the window and now it’s swinging in the opposite direction and practically hitting me in the head and pulling me off my feet. In the meantime, the guy in the car I was trying to whack gets out and beats the shit out of me again.
Remember that none of this is actually happening. What is happening is I’m sitting in stopped traffic half listening to NPR imagining what I could be doing if I were only slightly less inhibited, and actually kept a sledgehammer with me in the car.
There’s a third scenario.
The driver behind me gets out of his car and shoots the guy blocking the intersection. I’d like to think that I’d rush from the car and wrestle the gun away from the shooter and wind up on the nightly news talking about how I didn’t think, I just reacted, and that it was really nothing, and please if it’s perfectly alright with everyone I’d like to go home now.
Of all the fantasies I’m having in this traffic jam, this is the most fantastic.
I’m a coward. In a real shooting situation I’m far more likely to hide down below the dashboard and hope that everything just goes away. I’d feign death. I’d do the same in a war, too. I’d pretend to be dead immediately, even before I left the house.
I might run. But then what if the gunman runs, too? He’s just shot someone for blocking an intersection. It’s not unreasonable to think that he might make a run for it. In fact, isn’t it the most likely thing? It’s what I’d do if I’d just shot someone.
Admittedly, I may not be the best judge of what action to take after murdering someone. Up until now my most criminal adventure was stealing a handful of candy from the corner store at about ten years old when the shopkeeper turned his back on me.
What if the shooter and I find ourselves running in the same direction? He might think I was some kind of vigilante coming after him, a Charles Bronson-type figure, but skinnier and generally less impressive, and I’d have to explain that he’s wrong about this, that in fact I was trying to get away from him and that it’s simply blind chance that we’re now running in the same direction and that he has absolutely nothing to fear from me, which is probably an unnecessary thing for me to point out, as one look and I’m sure he would have already got that figured. Aside from anything else, this would be an awful lot to explain while running breathlessly from the scene of a crime.
I sometimes imagine I’m the shooter. This is why someone like me should not be legally able to acquire a gun. Sometimes I think about getting one, and it’s at this moment I realize how crazy the gun laws are in this country. To be clear, I’m aware they’re crazy one hundred percent of the time, but when you take the step of actually making calls to find out how you can own a gun, and you discover that not only is it entirely possible but it’s not even that difficult, then the idea of gun ownership takes on a whole new level of craziness.
There’s only one reason I want a gun and that’s because I want to use it. Why else would I buy one? Am I in the habit of buying things I have no intention of using?
I’m not. It’s why I should never be allowed to buy a gun. It’s why most of all the rest of us shouldn’t be allowed to, either.