The sun was just beginning to set on the last Saturday night in August. (Yeah, I know, I’ve been MIA.) Pink streaks mottled the clouds that dotted the sky. A cool breeze made riding down 12th Street much more pleasant than it had been on other Saturday nights, when I had been out at my part-time job and humidity anchored the city air. Yes, the warmth of the setting sun and gently gusting wind seemed almost idyllic, as I raced down 12th Street, trying to get a Chipotle burrito delivered within the 60-minute delivery window.
Then, rudely interrupting what might have been a passable evening of minimum-wage work, he appeared. A black Lincoln Towncar with livery plates, zooming down 12th Street cut me off — not to deliver organs to a dying man or to cure cancer or even to deliver a burrito within a prescribed delivery window. No, this man had a much higher calling — he needed to supersede me and immediately stop short at a red light.
“You know, random Philadelphia driver who just tried to run me off the road,” I thought to myself, “you’re the one-asshole-too-many-in-my-day today.” Then I wondered, as a philosophical or anthropological thought experiment: “What makes arriving at a red light a quadrillionth of a second ahead of someone else such a rewarding experience? Will getting there first make him richer or smarter or his wife better-looking? Will his life magically suck that much less because he got to enjoy the dented, rusted, looks-like-a-stiff-breeze-will-divorce-it-from-its-moorings traffic light a moment before the rest of the world? Should I be jealous? Am I missing something profound? Have I unwittingly diminished the quality of my life or denied myself existential ecstasy by not mindlessly accelerating into sudden abrupt halts?”
The shiny back end of the Lincoln silently mocked me.
And I realized that I could endure the Stygian wasteland of being second-in-line at a red light no longer.
With a new-found sense of purpose and direction in my life, I gunned the throttle, veered hard to the left, raced ahead 11 feet, and cut off the jerk in the Lincoln — righteously claiming my place to worship at the feet of that red light.
Then I waited — for Nirvanva to hit me like a thunderbolt — for some quasi-Biblical, life-altering transformation — for all of Life’s mysteries to be laid bare before me as I assumed a mantle of omniscience. My new lease on life had thus to begin, for now I too had sped up and cut someone off to get to an abrupt, pointless stop on 12th Street for no reason.
Nirvana, alas, never came. Neither did enlightenment or world peace. The world remained the same warped, Kafkaesque dystopia that it had been five minutes ago — when life was different — when I was only second at the red light. While Nirvana was running late, an angry Uber driver made his presence known without delay.
The light changed; I raced off. After all, somewhere in the City of Brotherly Love, a man needed his burrito.