The Culture of the Interstate

January 3, 2011
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It is quite accurate to assume that every single thing that interacts in some way has a type of culture about it: it has a set theme, or way of interaction, that forces whomever engages it to adapt to it. Case in point, the interstate. The Interstate exists with a culture of speed and confusion. With its fast speeds, faster cars, and multitude of signs it waits for no one and if you aren’t prepared to go fast, then you had better not even try. I, being the know-all teenager who doesn’t need “experience” to do something correctly thought nothing of it. After all, how difficult could driving at break-neck speed be when you see people do it all the time while simultaneously eating french fries and getting dressed? In my mind, it wouldn’t be hard at all. That is why, after having my permit for approximately 3.2 days, I decided that the speed-culture of the highway didn’t apply to me and I would have no trouble driving to Loveland. As it turns out, however, I was quite wrong in my assumptions.

To put it plainly, my parents planned on driving themselves absolutely nowhere once I received my permit. They both told me that driving everywhere would give me experience, but in reality they used my permit as a type of psychological payback figuring that after spending all of those years driving me around it was time for me to return the favor. They had me drive them all over the place and everything was fine until my dad asked my to drive him up to Sportsmans Warehouse. The name of the store and reason for going is absolutely irrelevant, because all that matters is that my dad lives in north Fort Collins and Sportsmans Warehouse is in Loveland. Now, any intelligent and unexperienced driver would simply take the long way and drive where they were most familiar: right through the city. However, patience is not a virtue I will ever posess and instead decieded that I-25 was a better route for us to take. This portion of the narrative is where my arrogance in assuming that I could handle it comes into play. We drove, quite nervously, all the way to Loveland without any incidents with the exception of angering a few speedy drivers. Once there, my dad gave me the oppurtunity to sit back and enjoy a ride home, courteous of his own driving skills, but I still passed it up. I was determined to make it round trip, because only going half the way was a sure sign of defeat! Without hesitation, we got back into my dad’s Subaru and continued on our way. Now, there really shouldn’t have been a problem at this point except for the fact that the wonderful folks at the Colorado Department of Transportation decided to re-design the Loveland ramp onto the interstate so there currently does not exist a merge lane. To make matters even better, it was rush hour. Of course, I didn’t realize any of this until it was too late and the mixture of my hesitation, the oncoming flow of traffic without a break in the cars and no place to merge caused me to slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the merge lane. At this point, I have learned my lesson but just like when you underestimate any type of culture, the Interstate wanted to make sure I understood fully what I had gotten myself into. So here we are, my dad and I just sitting in the exit ramp while I nervously try to get back onto the road. It doesn’t make it any better that the guy in the car behind us is screaming inapropriate language at me and my dad is yelling back. Then, on top of all of this some weird buzzer sound starts going off in the car and my dads iPhone starts freaking out. Finally, four angry drivers and one frightened teenager later we arrived back home safely, not without me fully understanding that the culture of the interstate is not to be messed with.

The Interstate does have a particular culture about it and it taught me a lesson, however that lesson probably stands for something greater than what is immediately expressed. Looking at it first, it is true that in order to use the Interstate I had to understand the culture it exudes or I would end up in trouble, but thinking it over this message probably has a deeper message. As it was stated, everything that can be interracted with has a culture and if you do not understand this culutre, than you are not prepared to interact with the object. It makes sense to say if you do not understand the culutre of a foreign country, do not visit that country. If you do not understand the culture of a group or organization, do not try and join. If you do not understand the culutre of an Interstate, don’t enter a broken off ramp with some angry jerk behind you and try to enter a flow of traffic moving eighty miles an hour. What it comes down to is that culture is a way of defining a thing and if you do not understand a culture, than you do not understand the thing. Understanding a culture isn’t just beneficial to your overall well-being but it is respectful of the object as well. Had I understood the culture of the Interstate I would have been better prepared and saved everyone a headache.





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