by Edward Small and Daniel Menaker
Greetings, my superiors, and, as we must always say, May the Canals Flow Again. After several weeks of carefully observing the humans, we have determined that the phenomenon they refer to as a “traffic jam” is third only to death and dentistry in causing them anguish. (Our mandibles are vastly superior.) Almost all humans become extremely agitated when forced to sit in their vehicles with names like Celica, Axxess, and Escalade that have no meaning even in their own languages and stare with their sadly limited binocular vision out of “windshields,” as many are in great hurries to sit at desks and stare at computer screens, the irony of this juxtaposition evidently being lost on them.
The humans show a variety of behaviors when caught in traffic jams. The most common at the start is honking their horns. At first we could only surmise that this practice arises from the belief that the traffic jam is being caused by hundreds of motorists in front of them forgetting that the speed limit is 65 miles per hour ( Martian pi X 4 canaleters/earth hour) rather than 7. (No further conversion necessary to make the point to you, my superiors.) We now have come to a different conclusion, however.
But first: When the horn honking fails, as it always does, most humans will begin to curse and yell incoherently. Then they pound on their steering wheels. Sometimes they exhibit all three behaviors simultaneously. And so as none of this activity has any effect on the traffic jam itself, we have formed the new hypothesis that these activities are religious rituals of some kind, because they possess no other logic.
Further supporting this theory is that after fulfilling these rites, humans begin changing the stations on their radios with great velocity. This practice, which– when it includes traffic reports about the very jam in which they find themselves–often leads to more horn honking and yelling, which must, again, achieve some kind of spiritual goal, as it achieves no other.
The ultimate cause of many traffic jams often turns out to be a car accident. To be more specific, generally when passing the car accident that has caused their specific traffic jam, many humans slow their vehicles down to a crawl (usually around pi X .5 canaleters/eh). Sometimes they stop their vehicles entirely and get out and look in a mesmerized fashion. We can draw no other conclusion from this behavior than that it is once again ritualistic and religious in nature–perhaps a prayer for the victims–as it does not lead the humans to reach their desks to stare at their computer screens any faster. Quite the contrary. The only conceivable alternative interpretation is that these strange creatures have a grotesque fascination with vehicular carnage, which would strain the credulity of even a Canalbug.
This concludes my report on human traffic jams, my superiors. The baffling precipitation-shielding “umbrella” devices are still under investigation.
May the Canals Flow Again
Edward Small is currently a senior at Dickinson College. He interned at The Onion in the summer of 2008 and is a contributor to CollegeHumor.
Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic and the author of a new book, “A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation.”