The Pavement Ballet

On a typical commuter morning last week at yet another stoplight, I thought about the complexity of movement and orderly behavior as people in cars and buses move independently from house to places of work on any given morning.

This particular day wasn’t anything special, consistently as bland as most workdays are at 8 a.m. The difference that day was a sudden awareness of how organized and harmonious we can be at times in our world, giving us an ever so slight, daily dose, of civilized behavior. As in most towns, there is a choreography of motored steps that happens each workday, not unlike the practiced movements of dancers on a stage. With quiet purpose, we each leave our homes in response to an unseen force that propels us from house to car, then car to work, unknowingly orchestrated with staggering departures to ensure a reasonable melding of uni-directional metal machines. What might happen if we all left at precisely the same moment? Chaos.

Imagine you’re a bird, floating on gentle currents high above such a scene. You might well be fooled that you were watching trained ants foraging through a striated forest, moving with obvious purpose and aligned randomness, while seeming to obey common laws that prevent inefficiency, yet induce progress. You might even become mesmerized by the hypnotic effect this orchestrated pavement ballet provides. Yet if you knew us well, you’d also sigh and shake your feathered head in dismay at the continued short-sightedness of creatures so obviously over-relying on machines that burn limited fossil fuels. Had evolution bypassed these creatures and not given them a natural form of movement? And if you knew of the wars and economic chaos caused by the addiction to this unnatural pursuit of fossil fuels, you’d likely bless your maker who saw fit to evolve you with a natural form of movement and exempt you from such silliness.

Yet still, you’d stay curious about the repetitive nature of these beings who endure the same orchestrated movements day in, day out. If you were an uncommonly intelligent bird who enjoyed delving into the mysteries of these other being’s behaviors, you’d probably question their reluctance to evolve to a more renewable, natural form of transportation. But by then, the bigger bird behind you would probably honk loudly, interrupting your daydreaming while less-than-gently encouraging you to continue on your way. Such are the dangers of thinking too much too early, when one should really be glissading.