Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mental Autopilot

Last night as I was stuck in traffic driving home, I found myself cursing under my breath at the traffic, moving at a snail’s pace, how sick I was of seeing the brake lights in front of me. I noticed the traffic behind me seemed to stretch farther back than it had when I’d first found myself mired in it.

I just wanted to get home. This morning on the way to work, I found myself experiencing a strange sense of déjà vu as once again I was cursing those very same things under my breath. I just wanted to get to work

That’s when I realized, maybe that’s the problem—maybe we’re always so impatient about how long it takes to get from point A to point B that we never take the time to stop and enjoy the scenery, we never take time to savor the journey… or maybe it’s just that when the road is anything but “open” and you’re forced to drive in bumper to bumper traffic; when you’re chugging exhaust fumes and the only scenery you get to enjoy is the light show from the intermittent brake lights of all the cars in front of you, well how can you help but shut your brain down a bit? And when you finally turn your brain back on, at the end of said journey, you realize you have little or no recollection of what happened between the time you put your keys in the ignition and when you realize you’ve actually arrived at your destination. Is it really such a bad thing? I mean, did you really miss anything while you were on “auto-pilot?”

Have you ever wondered in frustration, while stuck in such mind-numbing traffic if you’re missing out on something? Have you ever thought up some great idea for a new invention, a cool new film, the great American novel only to realize that as soon as you have the chance to write it all down there is a sad certainty which plagues you, telling you that no matter how great the thought may be… by the time you’re able to write it down, you won’t remember what it is any more?

Have you ever wondered how many great books, movies, songs, inventions have fallen casualty to our own mental autopilot? That magic button that turns off our minds just enough so we don’t drive ourselves nuts with boredom is the very same magic button that erases any really cool thoughts or ideas we might otherwise get if we were to leave our magical auto-pilot in the “off” position?


Bar Bar A said...

I never thought of it this way but dang, you are so right! I get my best ideas when "waiting" or sitting around in traffic.

Hey, thanks for reminding me about this blog, I have it set up so I can see when it's updated now...I've been missing out!

Susan as herself said...

Yes, I know what you mean... although I have become very good at distracting myself in a thousand ways on my commute...radio, singing, talking to myself, talking on my cell phone (with the hands-free, natch), etc.

But I notice that if I am at all tired, I go into "autopilot" and barely the drive...which scares me a little, as I think it means I might not be paying close enough attention to what I am doing...scary.

Perplexio said...

When I was living in Ohio there were times when I'd end up on I-480 and I wouldn't even remember having paid the toll to get on it... Or I'd pull into the parking lot at my apartment complex and the last thing I will have remembered was getting in the car when I first left work... I'll draw a complete blank on the actual journey from point A to point B.