I used to think that being stuck in traffic was awful. What could be worse, I thought, than the feeling of being completely trapped in a small metal box, surrounded by idiots, for absolutely no good reason? “There would be no traffic if you idiots would learn how to merge!” I would shriek. (Shrieking, by the way, was the only way to give myself a modicum of comfort.) “Yea verily,” I affirmed, “there is no circle of Hell deeper or closer to the icy tears of Satan than this.”
Then I had a child.
If you’ve never been stuck in traffic with a kid, you cannot know the precise and exquisite agony that entails. Imagine being stuck on an airplane with a screaming child, only you can’t even comfort yourself in my repeating soothing affirmations like “soon it will be over” or “only X more hours” or “the plane is moving; we’re making progress in getting to our final destination.” If, as Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers,” then the uncertainty of how long you will be trapped in traffic with your child oozes over it like a fearful oil, preventing the feathery thing from flying and sentencing it to a slow, painful, sad death. Then there’s the burden you feel of thinking you have some control over the situation. You don’t, absolutely you don’t, but you cannot shake the feeling that you do, and that is what dances you to the brink of madness.
Before you tip over the edge, however, you must go through your paces and walk the path to Hell like so many parents before you, stopping at each station in its turn…