The media was apocalyptic in its pronouncements of what this weekend was supposed to have been like. Fire. Earthquakes. Endless traffic. “Stay inside!” they warned.
And yet, in the silence of empty streets, Carmaggedon 2011 came and passed. There were no horrors. Life went on. And the contractors even finished their work a day early. $400,000 well-saved.
Cue the Monday morning quarterbacks criticizing the ridiculousness of this whole adventure, comparing Carmaggedon to Y2K as another overly-hyped non-emergency. Cue the politicians to start warning of Carmaggedon 2012, Return of the Carmaggedon, this time bigger, more dangerous, and more likely to go wrong. Cue the screaming children and fainting women.
Lost in the commotion is the amazing story of one weekend in Los Angeles when millions of people were able to relax, stay put, walk, bike and enjoy their neighborhoods. Not even a whole weekend. It lasted one day. Saturday. Shabbat.
A woman on NPR notes how nice it was to stay local for the day, to see friends, interact with her community and connect with neighbors. She hopes that corporations and politicians will take note and find ways to make this a more regular occurrence.
But she can do it herself!
Carmaggedon was not a present given to us by Measure R. It need not be a one-time parting gift of the Mulholland Bridge. No. It is something that can be repeated regularly, every week even.
Carmaggedon was quite lovely, in the end. But the experience is nothing new to me.
This is the point where I could self-righteously suggest that Shabbat provides the answer, that if only people realized that observance was the path to enjoying the unexpectedly delightful result of this weekend’s construction.
I will not.
Shabbat offers plenty of good, to be sure, but strict observance of the day’s sanctity is not for everyone.
Rather, I use Carmaggedon as a template for explaining the beauty of the Seventh Day, and what it can be: friends, a slower pace, actually connecting with the place in which you live.
Connection is something so-craved in our day. It can seem forever-distant. But it’s here! Right in front of us. If only we could pause, breath, and slow down enough every once in a while to attain it. If only we could close freeways every weekend!
Carmaggedon, that absurd fear over what terrible things would happen if Angelinos could not travel between the City and the Valley for two days, gave so many a taste of the very thing they always seek yet forever move further away from.
I’m lucky enough to already get that gift every week. Maybe, just maybe, this past weekend will have taught a few more people that they can to.
Meeting with friends during Carmaggedon Shabbat afternoon, one reflected on her aspirations for the day:
It’s so great, she said. I can walk down the streets of L.A. and exchange high fives and smiles with every person I pass.
Pollyannaish? Yes. A pipe dream? Not exactly.
Beyond the rules, the rituals and the details – all of which I love – the essence of Shabbat is that every person needs and deserves a day of rest. Rest is not errands. Rest is not mindless sleep. Rest is about connecting, with your neighborhood, with your friends, with your family, with the world around you. Rest is about good food, good company, and lots of smiles.
And maybe just a few high fives with other pedestrians too.