Nothing is worse than sitting in traffic, right? How about sitting in traffic for nine days?
A 100-kilometer-long traffic jam in China’s Heibei Province has left thousands of truck drivers stuck on the interstate heading towards Beijing since August 14. What’s worse, officials are saying that the jam could continue for up to a month!
Julian Cortazar wrote about this in “La autopista del sur” from his short story collection “Todos los fuegos el fuego” published in 1966. Here is the opening of the story from a translation by Suzanne Jill Levine published in “Latin American Writers: Thirty Stories:”
“At first the girl in the Dauphine had insisted on keeping track of the time, but the engineer in the Peugeot 404 didn’t care anymore [sic]. Anyone could look at his watch but it was as if that time strapped to your right wrist or the beep beep on the radio were measuring something else—the time of those who haven’t made the blunder of trying to return to Paris on the southern thruway on a Sunday afternoon and, just past Fontaine-bleau, have had to slow down to a crawl, stop, six rows of cars on either side (everyone know that on Sundays both sides of the thruway are reserved for those returning to the capital), start the engine, move three yards, stop, talk with two nuns in the 2CV on the right, look in the rear-view mirror at the pale man driving the Caravelle, ironically envy the birdlike contentment of the couple in the Peugeot 203 (behind the girl’s Dauphine) playing with their little girl, joking, and eaching cheese, or suffer the exasperated outbursts of the two boys in the Simca, in front of the Peugeot 404, and even get out at the stops to explore, not wandering off too far (no one knows when the cars up front will start moving again, and you have to run back so that those behind you won’t begin their battle of horn blasts and curses), and thus move up along a Taunus in front of the girl’s Dauphine—she is still watching the time—and exchange a few discouraged or mocking words with the two men traveling with the little blond boy, whose great joy at this particular moment is running his toy car over the seats and the rear ledge of the Taunus, or to dare and move up and observe with some pity the elderly couple in the ID Citroën that looks like a big purple bathtub with the little old man and woman swimming around inside, he resting his arms on the wheel with an air of resigned fatigue, the nibbling on an apple, fastidious rather than hungry.”