25 May 2015

mass migration on Memorial Day 3-day weekend

The busiest roadways in USA are the end of May (the northbound stream of cars on M-115 near Cadillac on Friday about 2:30 p.m. pictured here) for the 3 day weekend of Memorial Day; the traditional end of summer vacation season on the 3 day weekend of Labor Day (itself the first Monday of September; and the 4 day weekend of Thanksgiving (3rd Thursday) in November.
The urge to spend some happy hours among those one knows best, whether relatives or friends or both, drives people to their cars. For most people the roadways are the single biggest risk factor in their lives. And being more heavily trafficked on the start and the end of the holiday weekends, the danger is that much higher. In the recent decade or two the state police in Michigan, together with volunteers, have offered coffee at the highway rest areas to help ward off drowsiness or at least to demonstrate to those stopping that the problem is worthy of care. This widely dispersed pattern of social bonds comes from the ease of transportation, personal or by commercial services of rail, ferry and motor coach. So for the past 150 or more years, to pack up and visit others for a weekend has not been out of the ordinary. But in the grand scheme of human experience, it is not the norm, either. It would be interesting to peer into each of the cars in this stream to know what fills the compressed social space: silence, audio book or music or talk radio, conversation, cellphone or other mobile devices, print materials occupying the minds of those aboard? Multiplied across all the highways filling up in the afternoon of the holiday, the sum total of engagements is likely staggering.

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