Defense of Route Talk

There’s a new notion circulating that route talk is boring and should be avoided. That the ways in which we get around, to or from anywhere, aren’t worth mentioning. But when we’re at the end of a break in the semester, where people are usually just finishing up their travels and usually late to their first classes, it can be hard to avoid the talk.

Beyond our Santa Monica College proximity to each other, people use route talk as a way of connecting. In our situation as students, it’s easy because most people did something or went somewhere over the break, and everyone commutes at least a little bit to the school—a block or 20 miles, we still made it. As residents of the Greater Los Angeles area, it’s easy because we live in one of the most traffickey cities in the world. Everyone has something to complain about, everyone has wild experiences from time spent getting where they’re going. As citizens of the United States, it’s easy because we’re such a big country with so much land to cover, and because, in general, we have pretty poor public transport and like to complain about it. We all experience travel in a different way, in different modes, in different times of the day.

Over my spring break, I flew on red-eyes to and from New York City. From there, I drove 1000 miles throughout New England. Manhattan to Syracuse to Albany to New Haven to Boston to Attleborough back to New Haven to Brooklyn. I made it through 900 songs on my iTunes, eight different hotels, four university tours. There was 30F weather and 59F weather. Snow, rain, and sun. I took planes, subways, Ubers, taxis, rental cars, bikes, and foot to get around.

A friend of mine drove up the coast to Cambria in her family car. She sent me pictures of dolphins jumping out of the ocean and videos of her singing along to Life in the Fast Lane by the Eagles. I sent her pictures of seals at the Boston Aquarium and videos of snow falling on the freeway. Our routes were completely opposite and invariably interesting, obviously adequate for conversation.

I understand why you want to limit conversation that doesn’t lead to any new discoveries, that doesn’t push people to find more out about each other, that doesn’t take the conversation anywhere. But really, if we need stepping stones—baby steps of easy conversation—towards connection, then why should anyone try and stop that? Shouldn’t we allow the differences in universal experiences be represented, celebrated, complained about or mentioned, at the very least?

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