Ann Arbor, MI I

At 100 kilometers the blue sky drains white. Is there weather to the west? Fog? High clouds? No. The sun shines through the whiteness. At 60 kilometers the white sky regains pigment, now the sandy color of a dust storm, but the air is still. At 40 kilometers the sky darkens to brown, like the toxic cloud downwind of a forest fire, yet no trees are burning. The sun is dim and watery, the atmosphere suffocating.

Over 2.5 million people live in Toronto and far more inhabit the lower Ontario megalopolis—hardly large by international standards, but large enough to overwhelm. By three in the afternoon, everyone is on the freeway. Sitting still. Sitting alone. Engines hum. Hundreds of thousands of air conditioners and sound systems create hundreds of thousands of steel cocoons, tenuous havens from the loud, fuming sea of engines stretching for miles. Drivers start and stop, irritably punching their accelerators and stomping on their brakes. Billions of gallons of gasoline creating vast amounts of unused horsepower. Billions of hours of human life dedicated to the thoughtless, infuriating task of waiting in line to go home. And we do this daily. Volitionally. It is perfectly normal. It is also perfectly insane.

Throw a person in the middle of the urban freeway. His puny body is obsolete, legs too slow to compete with engines, skeleton too frail to rumble with welded automotive chassis. His lungs burn and convulse from an excess of carbon monoxide fumes. His eyes clog with road-grit. Concrete dividers hem in his movements. There are no sidewalks for him to retreat to. Without the life support of his own machine, he cannot survive in the freeway environment—he might as well be tossed into the middle of the ocean without a boat. But the ocean is not manmade.