Small Moments: American Freeways


Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


  Where are you going?
Two young fish are swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
— David Foster Wallace

Ivan here.

Consider the American freeway. Authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 under the Eisenhower administration. Completed 35 years later. It runs 47,856 miles and accounts for a quarter of all vehicle miles driven each year. 

When the U.S. Interstate was first proposed, it was met with almost universal approval. Until of course, they started building it. 

Family businesses, entire industries and towns along the old highway system soon realized that they were about to become drive-by country. Inner cities hollowed out as capital (and tax dollars) moved out to the suburbs. Big box stores and shopping malls started popping up, paving the continent over with parking lots. 

I’m only trying to illustrate the other side of progress. In 2017, progress has made it possible to drive from coast to coast in under 48 hours. But progress also means we can speed across this country without seeing any of it. 

Not if we don’t want to. Not if we aren’t paying attention. 

This past week, Jennie and I described the following experiences in Los Angeles: 

  1. Commuting home in rush hour traffic
  2. Getting stuck at a Target checkout
  3. Killing time on a Sunday afternoon
  4. Having lunch with co-workers

The experiences themselves are nothing special. But it’s the things you notice along the way that we want to hold onto.

Things we want to remember.