Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sometimes it's not clear where you are supposed to go until after wards.

After being submerged in a car-free European urban environment for the last four years, I am gradually re-acquainting myself with commuter life in America.  Even though Berlin is a full seven times larger in area than San Francisco, getting around the City by the Bay is surprisingly slow, complicated and costly.  One small price for Paradise. 

Last month as I was furnishing my office, I found myself driving around parts of town that I don't usually frequent.  And at one point, I spotted the traffic sign pictured above (can you name the intersection?).  The light had just turned green and there was an army of cars behind me, anxious to step on their gas pedals, and all I could think of was how the shapes in the sign resembled those planaria that we studied in eighth-grade science class, the little water-bound creatures that could grow two heads.  However, more importantly was to figure out which of the five lanes would allow me to legally continue straight ahead.  Although I won't tell you how this ended, I can say I certainly relate to that feeling of looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing where one was supposed to go, and wondering how in the world to get there.

That's what it's like to be new in town.  You hesitate, or you stop.  You get into a fender-bender and have to say sorry to the person behind you.  It costs you time and money, and you feel tense, you get pulled out of your center, and you make mistakes.  And often in life, there is pressure from behind to make a decision into the unknown.  This is also why we prefer to stay in our daily routines, because doing new things is clumsy and expensive.  But for all our trouble and misery, for our willingness to tolerate a degree of discomfort, we've learned something, which is quite a lesson in humility.