On the drive back from work this evening rush hour was strangely reversed. At 6:00 on most days I’ll run into traffic just north of downtown where 670 and 71 merge bringing six lanes of traffic down to three. But tonight it was clear sailing from downtown to Clintonville. But southbound 71 was solid, bumper- to- bumper traffic. The traffic wasn’t moving southbound from when I got on the highway until I got off.
The reason for this is pretty obvious. Everyone got off work early so they could head over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. So rush hour out of downtown was negligible, but everyone trying to get from north of the city to south, east, or west was getting hung up on the east-side splits.
I saw this exact same thing last year. I don’t remember if I saw it before that. But all I could think both times was, “why?” Why do we put ourselves through this? So that we can show up at the relatives stressed and grumpy, burn the turkey, and watch uncle Merv drink too much and puke on Grandma’s antique rug?
And frankly, the drive is probably mild compared to the flights. Horror stories were already coming over the air about delays and the first real snowstorm of the season in the Midwest. Add that to the post 9/11 paranoia about shoes and liquids and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Who actually wants to sit on uncomfortable chairs and eat indigestible food for the better part of the day just so you can spend a weekend with relatives?
So why do we do it? I think that a lot of us are trying to recapture some idealized holiday of the past, where everyone was happy to be in each others’ company and food and cheer were plentiful. We’ve seen it in the commercials, surely our childhood was like that, right?
Well, no, it wasn’t. And it’s foolish to try to recreate it. The word “nostalgia” is a neologism from the Greek “nostos” meaning homecoming and “algos” meaning suffering or pain. The original connotation of the word isn’t positive. It’s a pathological longing for home that causes you to ignore the things that are right in front of you. We are a society suffering from cultural nostalgia. And worst of all, the “nostos” for which we long was invented anyway.
When we first moved to Ohio, it was too far to drive to visit family for Thanksgiving weekend, and since everything was closed on Thanksgiving we started our own tradition. We locked ourselves in the house with a bunch of movies, made popcorn, and cooked a turkey dinner and a pumpkin pie. It was perfect. A day spent with the people closest to me with no pressure to do anything more than just be there.
If we could all find that place I think we’d all be a lot happier.
Entry filed under: Ranting.