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Roads and the dreaded 20-minute construction delay

A civilization is only as good as its roads. Everything else falls short compared to the necessity of getting people and goods from one place to another. Road technology has come a long way from the dirt footpaths of our earliest ancestors. Modern roads are amazing, but such a common thing that we take them for granted. We don’t really notice them until they are not there, or more commonly, are under construction or repair.

If you told anyone from over a hundred years ago that today we have the ability to traverse all types of landscapes at a constant sixty-five miles per hour in our own private, self-propelled carriages they would think you are crazy. If you told them this ability was not reserved for the rich and noble, but accessible to anyone who can pass a driver’s test, your story would be even more unbelievable.

For most of history, many people had nothing but their own two feet to transport them. Maybe a horse if they were lucky. It was not uncommon for a person to only travel within walking distance of the place they were born. In their entire lives! Today, we can go further than they would ever think to, and not even for important reasons like to secure resources, but just for a fun day-trip.

Despite this incredible mobility, people get terribly upset when there is a twenty-minute construction delay. They have already traveled further then most people ever did, but they can’t wait patiently for twenty minutes.

People behave as if the road being there and working is the natural order of things, while delays and detours signal imbalance and bad luck. Really, we should look at it the other way around. Delays and detours are the natural way of things, and you should consider yourself lucky to get to your destination without encountering either, or both.

Of course, ancient people were probably just as lacking in appreciation as we are today. I’m sure many peasants crossed over grand stone bridges that stood for centuries, but only really noticed them the day they went out.

Maybe we pay so little attention to roads because they are a symbol of human habitation. From superhighways to the most simple foot trails, people need roads to go about their everyday lives. Roads are as important to us as trees are to a monkey, or caves are to a bat: necessary parts of the habitat that help us to survive.

When a monkey climbs into a tree or a bat hangs up in a cave, I bet they feel much more secure. It is the same for humans, who can be lost in the wilderness, then stumble across a road and think, “Whew, a road! Now I am safe.”

The main difference is that Earth provides caves and trees freely, while we have to build our roads. The Earth can never top itself and make a better tree or a superior cave, but we humans are always making our roads better. As our standards go up, so too do our expectations. Anything less than what we are used to becomes unacceptable.

If we think a twenty minute delay is bad now, imagine how people will react in the future when solar flares jam up the teleporter network and people will have to wait –gasp! - a whole twenty seconds before they can zap from Colorado to Australia.

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