Zeno’s paradox

I did get stuck in The Great ???? — have they given it a name yet? — last night.  A ten mile commute home took me almost eight hours and from what I have read many people had it worse.  I thought of Keynes and liquidity.  The worst part came at the end when I saw the car crushed by a large, heavy tree, which also fell over the main road and turned four lanes and two directions into one lane and two directions.  For the most part human cooperation held up and people kept their places in line.  Bathroom norms evolved (and were improved), and I now know every station on my radio.  As the trip continued, the number of car corpses rose.

We at GMU are so dedicated they didn't even cancel classes.  And if a nuclear weapon is being launched at DC, I'm simply going down to the basement.

Comments

Thankfully, they did cancel classes for today. I was happy to see that email arrive this morning.

presuming you're wearing somewhat sensible clothing and are in decent shape, a ten mile walk, even in snow, won't take much over two and a half or three hours. if conditions were rapidly worsening, i'd never take my chances in a car. better making slow progress than sitting trapped. plus, you get the smug sense of self-satisfaction that comes from overtaking cars while on foot.

According to The Onion, the storm has been termed the Snowlocaust.

I left my office in DC around 8:00, thinking most of the traffic should have cleared. But it ended up taking almost five hours to ... drive is not the right word ... the twelve miles to Annandale.

Curious about the bathroom norms. I thought I might have to risk being prosecuted for indecent exposure before the night was out and was finding myself wondering whether there was an emergency exception in the statute. I was also wondering about the feasibility of using the water bottle I had with me. Fortunately, it didn't come to that.

Perhaps you should have bought some cross country skis.

Certainly was like nothing I have ever seen before. Took me 6 hours from DC to Western Fairfax County and that was leaving in the early afternoon before the meat of rush hour. My backup plan for evacuation is my dirt bikes. There are many new and old trails and bike paths into the blue ridge and or maryland. I think I would take my chances with those.

> presuming you're wearing somewhat sensible clothing and are in decent shape,
> a ten mile walk, even in snow, won't take much over two and a half or three
> hours.

This is only even plausible in mild snow, and is likely to be a great deal more dangerous than driving.

Too bad you can't sell ebooks out of the trunk of your car...

I VRE it and only suffered being jammed into a train that smelled like wet wool for about 40 minutes rather than the usual 25. It did take 15 minutes to go the mile from the VRE to my house due to gridlock.

I live in Annandale too, Richao. You should consider rail, it's much less stressful. I have about four different alternates if stuff starts to go pear shaped: blue line to Van Dorn, bus home. Orange to Dunn Loring, bus home. Metro to Pentagon, express bus home. Blue to Springfield, walk three miles home.

It's always interesting to see how people behave when something has clearly gone wrong, a tree blocking most of the road, versus things just backing up. Like the one poster mentions my foray into the mess was more a case of gridlock and bad competition among drivers. One ran a red light just to take the one spot available for the car attempting to make a right when his light turned green. Another, probably after waiting for a light or two, made it into the middle of 123, making a left turn, and then proceeded to wait in the middle blocking just about everyone, because he wanted to get into the right lane rather than the empty left lane and then use a turn signal.

I think these cases are often more chaos/butterfly theory -- small actions can produce large results. A few myopic people push "that one car advantage" and in the process produce gridlock; resulting in higher frustration and an increase in the "competitive" behavior. Similarly, a few people can take the "high road" and not push the yellow, let intersections clear and the like, and suddenly everyone is moving -- albeit slowly in the snow.

If only there were some coordinating mechanism that promoted the later behavior and inhibit the former.

Seems to me human cooperation, and the market, failed.

A simple obstacle was impeding the progress of thousands of people, but everyone simply waited for government to remove the obstacle.

Why didn't human cooperation result in enough humans to move the tree, and car, off the road?

Why didn't a market form to pay a fair market price to a group with the mechanical means of tree removal?

Jeez, mulp, you answered your own question:

Q.

Why didn't human cooperation result in enough humans to move the tree, and car, off the road?

A.

A simple obstacle was impeding the progress of thousands of people, but everyone simply waited for government to remove the obstacle.

Why pay twice for a service?

The problem is the tree owned the road.

Was it my luck that I developed such a bad sore throat and cough that I stayed home for 3 days and avoided the transportation chaos (Metro in my case)of Washington in a snow storm? The fact that I am retired meant that I could do so in good conscience. I read that on Tuesday or Wednesday the Library of Congress, where I usually am, had a surprise visitor, a hawk, which occasionally swooped over the heads of readers. It has since been rehabilitated.

"How did the toll roads fare in the storm? Did they have trees laying across them blocking traffic?"

To my knowledge, the only toll road in the immediate area doesn't have any trees big enough and close enough to the road for that to be a potential issue. Any tree falling near the Dulles Toll Road probably wouldn't reach the road.

But, that was probably just an example and you are more hinting at the possibility that a private road fared better than a public road last night. Maybe it did, somewhat, but the people I know who were on the toll road last night also had several hour commutes.

The problem, as best I could tell, was hills. Many cars simply were not able to climb certain hills. Exit ramps sloping upwards were a problem exiting major highways. Cars were stuck. Either the car was then abandoned or they kept working for a long time to get that car up that hill. I saw no plows anywhere to help clear these hills nor did I see any police to help direct any traffic.

So, I guess the question is whether the private toll road is in charge of its own plowing or if that was also left to VDOT.

Too bad you can't sell ebooks out of the trunk of your car...

Winner!

A simple obstacle was impeding the progress of thousands of people, but everyone simply waited for government to remove the obstacle.

You mean, like this?

Dear Mulp,

Let me be the first to congratulate you on taking the opportunity to use Tyler's tale of personal hardship to start another round of bickering about politics. We don't get enough of that on the internet. A lot of folks might have succumbed to the temptation to commiserate, or to express relief that he made it home ok, or some other pansy-ass display of weakness, but you, sir, have your eye on the ball. You stand as a shining example to people like "anon," whose feeble attempt to disparage an entire city full of people he has never met (if only Washingtonians spent more time hunting *bears*, then they'd be more like real men), though a worthy effort, just doesn't measure up. It's people like you, people who never forget there is always a "long game" to be played who have made this country what it is today. I salute you.

"Tyler's anecdote may say more about the kind of people who commute in the metro DC area than anything about the rest of the country"

I don't think things were nearly as bad in Baltimore, Philly, or NY, so I think you have a point. But, I don't think it's "educated white collar" vs. some other types of people. I think it might have to do with the variety of people who come from other places. Mix the guy from Syracuse on the road with the guy from Texas and you'll have issues. Then mix them with an area that does a horrible job of clearing and preparing roads and you have traffic nightmares.

Comments for this post are closed