Best of Denver

How to Survive...Being Stuck in I-70 Traffic

You know the drill: brake lights, deceleration, standstill traffic and indignant yawns. Until the people up ahead learn how to drive, here are a few time-killers to make your boredom less angry and your anger less boring.

One perennial favorite pastime of those with out-of-state plates seems to be snapping pictures of their obese families standing in the road in front of whatever mildly picturesque mountain they happen to be stopped near. Then, when the magic moment is over -- preserved in photograph and in my memory for all the tedious unfoldings of eternity and its traffic jams -- there is the usual cell-phone call to the one member of the clan who didn't make it on this outing. For example: "Hey, Maw! Y'all should see what'n theys got up here! They's is Christmas trees atop o' every mount'n, an more of them li'l gray squirrls what you could eat'n a whole yar! I love Colaradee!" And then out comes the jerky...

If you're not a hillbilly but find yourself, all the same, at a dead stop for more than a few minutes, turn off your engine. Or don't, and keep supporting big oil while simultaneously fighting the goddamn environmentalists. Two birds with one poisonous emission.

Get out of the car, stand up, stretch and help your bladder to appreciate the beauty of hundreds of miles of open-air roadside lavatories alongside I-70.

Strike up a conversation with the occupants in the next vehicle. As you all lean against hoods and wax neighborly, use many insipid banalities while speaking on topics such as the weather, your home town or what's taking so long to clear the road. Keep a straight face and try to work in such phrases as "I reckon" or "As the crow flies." Get back in your car and snicker to/at yourself.

Always carry reading material. I bring a taxonomic guide to identifying roadkill, as well as a mainstream newspaper for refreshing my objectivity on what boredom really is. Beyond that, I don't mind opening the glove box, moving the three handguns, taking out the owner's manual and brushing up on my Subaru's troubleshooting checklist. It seems that if nothing happens when you depress the gas pedal, you should check to see that the engine is running.

Yell at bighorn sheep. "Hey, you stupid sheep, with your curly fucking horns, fuck you!" Something like that. This practice is unproductive but amusing, yielding equally confused looks from sheep and other drivers. Go for "Baaaa," then hit the horn and honk at the car ahead.

Make a list of the things that could've been accomplished in the 3.7 billion hours Americans spent stuck in traffic during 2004. Here are some examples, to get you started:

Convince Mariah Carey not to record her next album;

Pretend to give a shit about all those poor Third World citizens while they're still around;

Write haiku about halcyon yesteryear and the eventide of our lives.

Sure enough, by the time you're imagining yourself eight syllables in, the clog will release, and traffic will flow like snowmelt in June.