Words: Nathan Myers
Maybe every road was like this once. Just a deer trail across a meadow. A path to gather berries upon. A cut-through. A secret. And then someone lays some pavement and the whole situation goes cardiac arrest.
Maybe this is just progress. Convenience. Manifest destiny. It feels so wrong. We do it anyway.
This particular Shortcut I know runs between two rice paddies. Two separate farmers. Divided and adjoined. They shared a trail, used to tend their neighboring fields. To cross the valley on the way to the temple. Local foot traffic widened the trails. Motorbikes hardened it into a regular crossing. The flow increased to regular usage. So they widened to a path, just big enough for a car.
And then the cobblestones came. Piled three feet high and held together with sand. A teetering totem of engineering mediocrity. A road was born. Sort of.
Neither farmer was willing to concede an inch of their precious paddy, so the resulting road was cobbled as narrow as possible. Just wide enough for a car and a motorbike to pass each other in opposite directions. But for two cars, one needed stop at the far side of the small valley and wait for the first to pass.
Over time, an Etiquette developed. A Short Cut skill set. How to wait. How to watch. How to wave.
It’s a lovely spot, with views of both sunrise and sunset, volcanoes in the distance and green green paddies with their quirky clockwork rhythm. People often stop to shoot yoga selfies or compose Instagram poetry from the mud, which has become an acceptable part of the Etiquette.
What was NOT acceptable, however, is to drive the Shortcut when someone else was already driving it in the opposite direction. The road was just too narrow. Too feeble. And it’s meant to be one way…though no one quite remembers which one.
As the years go by, the tiny village on the far side of the Shortcut has grown into quite the hip, hopping, hipster hotspot. Each day, parades of flopsy-hatted, bearded cross-fit yogis hire day-rate drivers to deliver them across the paddies for a quick moustache waxing and some vinyl shopping before a two-for-one happy hour with their sunset selfie. And along the way, they stop upon The Shortcut for a Snapchat update or to spray paint a quick mural. “Save Our Mother Ocean,” they spray. “Choose Life” and “Eat Pussy, Not Animals.” Their lack of irony is not ironic at all.
The local farmers barely take notice. Tending their painted ducks in the muck. Or the topless old woman cracking her whip at the birds, oblivious to the boho Swedes blogging amidst the paddocks. This un-harvested growth. This expat epidemic. This virtual apocalypse.
Bewildered by experiential now-ness, two cars head down the road from opposite directions. They arrive, face-to-face in the sunken precipice of The Short Cut. They stop. They honk. They glare and bicker from within their air-conditioned containments. “You go back.” “No you.” “I was here first,” says the Italian. “No, I was,” says the Australian. One gets out of his car. The other locks their doors. And then two more cars come down the path, unaware of the constipation at the blindspot basin. Then motorbikes pour down from both directions, like mortar spilling between bricks. The clusterfuck is complete.
Did I mention that the road is a one-way street? But I can’t recall which way.
The local police post up here regularly collecting their daily bribe money from people going whichever is wrongways, but they tend to disappear during proper clusterfucks.
So here we are. No one going nowhere. For not much reason at all.
The goal was to save time. But now some sort of new Time is taking shape. Stalled out and gridlocked in this idealistic little rat race, someone turns up their stereo. Someone launches a drone. The wifi is free and the volcano is watching. It starts to rain. Everything is two for one.