Playing Los Angeles Rush Hour

Today I was stuck in traffic for a long time.

Some little boy in Pasadena had the 134 freeway (both directions) under the spell of his control module as he took his turn playing the hottest new video game on the market: Los Angeles Rush Hour. Deriving sick, victorious pleasure in repeatedly hitting pause and slow-motion, he kept thousands in some isolated purgatory between work and real life, herding us down one big clogged, impatient concrete vein.

As we waited like obedient zombies for his next command, this kid also simultaneously multi-tasked similar backups on the 10, 710, 110, maybe even stopping to sabotage your 1040 EZ tax return before contemplating the right time to clear the sig-alert. Most impressively, he was single-handedly responsible for upholding the daily wonder that is the 405, a thoroughfare so legendary that I almost felt honored to be inching on its worn, much-despised terrain when I first moved here.

Los Angeles Rush Hour represents revolutionary progress in the dominance of the video game in every phase of child development. But in addition to stunting growth, this game addresses a public problem that sorely needs addressing. Unlike Grand Theft Auto and similar crime spree fantasies, it straddles the line separating simulation and actualization without regret or responsibility. Actually, Rush Hour is not just a game, nor is it just a Chris Tucker-Jackie Chan sequel-producing buddy movie; it’s really happening out there, but only one player at a time. The kid in Pasadena has one shot, and one shot only. Every day a new player takes over the delusion that he can bring a new, innovative, and different way of thinking to the daily commute mob.

Getting into our cars, lethargically sighing, and turning the key, we can only wonder all-too-pessimistically how today’s Los Angeles Rush Hour will play out. Everyone, from the shock rock DJ on the airwaves to the newly illegal Mexican immigrant airtight-packed in a pickup, can learn the lesson, and learn it well, over and over again: never underestimate the power of inconvenience. What will doom me to immobility today? Keep my fully loaded BMW roadster Z7 frame shock absorbed coupe (and I) guessing! Make us look good out there!

But even amid all the excitement, Los Angeles Rush Hour can’t shake its inner demons. Two unpopular elements remain constant, perhaps even bloated in the summertime, challenging each new player’s attempt at getting through the game without resorting to strangling himself with the audio-video cord: (1) the cars, the massive overabundance of one-person cars, nowhere, somewhere, everywhere the cars, reliable yet catastrophically time consuming, being sold faster than they can be destroyed, everywhere the cars and (2) the city’s inadequate, overmatched freeway system. It has yet to meet a day when it hasn’t taken a beating by all those cars. Some days it’s an all-out massacre. Likewise, Los Angeles Rush Hour has yet to meet a worthy opponent in the gaming world, condemning crowded cars to stare forward into the energy-sucking abyss, indefinitely.

Now, despite this very serious problem ailing our urban sprawl, you may not care. You may feel all uppity because you live in what you believe is a pollution-free city like, say Chicago or New York City. You may delight in casting a downward glance upon Los Angeles for its traffic and pollution problems. You may even get the impression that I’m complaining about the unpredictably eerie presence of this new video game. Not a chance! I love Los Angles traffic. It really makes me feel like a part of the bigger picture, that is, if I can suspend my greater good, pollution-is-bad sense long enough for that pesky guilt to pass me by.

Because every ozone-depleting coating of smog has a silver lining, I like to focus on the positives of being stuck in traffic. That kid playing Los Angeles Rush Hour may be controlling my car, but he’s got no way into my head, or my stereo…or does he? On that note, I must generate some buzz about a new video game on the horizon that I would actually enjoy playing. From the creators of Los Angeles Rush Hour, Invisible Car Stereo DJ is less problematic yet alarmingly intrusive. The objective is to infiltrate the minds of people stuck in traffic and make “unconscious” music and programming decisions for them, either driving them really crazy or making them very happy (other emotions are not included on the patent, but the range is limitless with tomorrow’s technology).

Imagine the possibilities! There are so many, I can’t even think of any good ones yet. But in the meantime, consider a full-treble treatment of Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” in one of those meth-infested anarchist punk rocker vans lined with Social Distortion (best band name ever) stickers. Or slip the Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” into a car driven by someone in love on a Friday (as if that never happens). Or if you really want to punk my car, galvanize my radio with a never-ending parade of Coulter and Limbaugh-laden banter, sandwiched by consumer-sabotaging advertisements, each one more annoying and on higher volume than the next, so that by the time I get out of the car, I’m ready to scrawl raving mad leftist, anti-corporate rhetoric and hopeless prose all over every billboard in the city, broadcast thoughtfully to everyone I left behind in the contagious traffic.

And then there’s the wild “Everybody Hurts” card, if you dare play it. Anyone who’s ever seen the video for REM’s mope hit knows that if you dare spin its misery in your traffic-stalled car, it will drive you so batshit crazy, you’ll start looking into the cars around you, reading people’s minds, and realizing they’ve all got it way worse than you do. When the song shifts into its disappointingly uplifting outtro, Michael Stipe’s encouragement to “Hold on” will propel you to give him the finger and say, “Hold this!” and abandon your vehicle, inspiring the whole freeway to do the same, and hopefully convincing any juvenile player of Los Angeles Rush Hour to drop the console, go outside and play.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home