On Friday, I drove to the University of Toronto to give a talk. This was the first time I’d ever driven on a freeway alone. I didn’t drive at all until a year ago, for four reasons:
- Global warming. I assuaged my conscience by buying a Prius (though admittedly, given the waiting lists for hybrids, I’m probably increasing CO2 concentrations by preventing someone who drives more than I do from having my car).
- Fear of getting lost. The solution to this one was “Carla,” my sultry female computerized travel companion (“Proceed on the current route for 0.3 miles”). I realize that for some guys, Carla would feel like a direct assault on their virility — especially since she’s always right. But I love her, and I predict that in five years’ time, everyone else will want her too.
- Lack of any social life that would necessitate a car. I’ve since realized that this was as much a symptom as a cause of my carlessness.
- Fear of dying a gruesome death. I haven’t yet licked this one, as became evident on Friday.
To avoid the traffic, I left Waterloo at 5:30am (yes, I’d been up all night). Unfortunately, that’s when all the trucks were out, and trucks on a freeway make me nervous. See, the problem with freeways is that there are no red lights — and therefore, no time to hunt down the neurons firing off about Futurama or BQP/qpoly, and refocus their attention on the road. It’s like having to play Super Mario all the way through without pausing — the differences being that there are no stars or mushrooms, you only get one life, and it’s your actual life. (Also, you can’t stomp on the goombas, since they’re people too.)
So when I finally pulled into the parking garage at U of T, palms white and sweaty on the steering wheel, I started laughing hysterically: “I made it! I’m still alive! At least in this branch of the wavefunction, I’m alive! Joy to the world!” That I hadn’t yet written the talk that I was to give in two hours seemed utterly insignificant.
For the ride home, I asked Carla to find me a route that avoided freeways, and ended up zigzagging through the small towns of southeast Ontario. The stoplights looked as pretty as the setting sun.