Sunday, June 14, 2009


"...The automobile was important to Los Angeles, a city more technology-dependent than any in the world. Los Angeles could not survive without the automobile, as it could not survive without water piped in from hundreds of miles away, and as it could not survive without certain building technologies. This was a fact of the city's existence, and had been true since early in the century.

But in recent years Ross had begun to recognize the subtle psychological effects of living your life inside an automobile. Los Angeles had no sidewalk cafes, because no one walked; the sidewalk café, where you could stare at passing people, was not stationary but mobile. It changed with each traffic light, where people stopped, stared briefly at each other, and then drove on. But there was something inhuman about living inside a cocoon of tinted glass and stainless steel, air-conditioned, carpeted, stereophonic tape-decked, power-optioned, isolated. It thwarted some deep human need to congregate, to be together, to see and be seen.

Local psychiatrists recognized an indigenous depersonalization syndrome. Los Angeles was a town of recent emigrants and therefore strangers; cars kept them strangers, and there were few institutions that served to bring them together. Practically no one went to church, and work groups were not entirely satisfactory. People became lonely; they complained of being cut off, without friends, far from families and old homes. Often they became suicidal – and a common method of suicide was the automobile. The police referred to it euphemistically as "single unit fatalities". You picked your overpass, and hit it at eighty or ninety, foot flat to the floor. Sometimes it took hours to cut the body out of the wreckage…"

Page 147. The Terminal Man
Michael Crichton

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