Traffic | Postcards from Re-entry

by Elizabeth

We drove through the city recently. We didn’t even drive into the city; we just drove through it on the interstate. I was shocked by how quickly the traffic changed. It became so much faster, so much more crowded, and so much more stressful – and I wasn’t even the one driving.

When I lived in Kansas City, I thought this kind of traffic was normal. It didn’t stress me out. I knew the city like the back of my hand, and I could drive most places on autopilot. But now that I’ve lived away from it for over a year, the city feels very overwhelming. I’ve definitely become accustomed to the slower pace of driving in Joplin. And I have no desire to return to city driving.

I have, in fact, successfully contracted my life. The grocery store is five minutes away, as is the doctor. Our church is ten minutes away, and the airport is close by. I don’t mind at all. On the days when I have to drive across town – say, for instance, to the dentist — it feels like I’m making a long journey. And it’s only 20 minutes. This stands in contrast to Kansas City driving, where no one bats an eye over a 20-minute drive, and many trips are 40 minutes or more.

Traffic is light here, most of the time. And when traffic is heavy, it’s nothing like the painfully slow, packed streets of Phnom Penh. I didn’t even drive in Phnom Penh. Traffic was so stressful that the very first week we lived there, I decided never to drive in it. And the traffic only worsened over the years. That means I experienced Phnom Penh traffic only as a passenger, either in a vehicle with Jonathan driving (and probably getting stressed out) or in a tuk tuk.

So whether I compare Joplin traffic to Kansas City traffic or to Phnom Penh traffic, I will choose Joplin every time. It is relaxed and unrushed, and I love it. Initially it was stressful learning the art of the traffic circle, but now I love its simplicity. And at first it was disorienting to try to find my way around a new town, but these days I’m more familiar with the layout. Now that I’ve lived here awhile, I’m not sure I could ever go back to city driving, and I’m perfectly content with that.

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