The Goddess Speaks
Jam some learning into traffic jams
Oahu is a small island, but if you live in Ewa Beach, you have to approach going anywhere as a major road trip. But instead of looking at traffic as a problem, I like to think of it as an opportunity.
I grumbled for years about being stuck morning and afternoons crawling along in my car, and I was miserable every day. Then I bought my first learning-by-CD course, and my life changed.
Now I listen to professors from around the country speaking on topics like the nature of atoms and the history of concert music. Every morning, with all due respect to Perry and Price, I tune in just for the news headlines, then I switch to prerecorded programming that enriches my life.
I've resigned from the ranks of traffic complainers, because while my engine is on idle, my mind is not. Thanks to learning-by-CD, I know about the government-funded search for intelligent life in outer space, the humanlike speech patterns of the great apes, and the reasons why my brain is NOT like a computer.
I've taken a course on marital customs among the Trobriand Islanders, and another one on Egyptian history. I now have in my repertoire of light cocktail conversation odd tidbits like why monkey bars should be called ape bars and why a cake walk really was a cake walk. Instead of ingesting the usual radio drivel on the latest Hollywood sex scandals, I fill my mind with the lives and histories of people, places and cultures, and for my soul, the lives and works of musical composers.
For me, getting stuck in traffic is an opportunity, and when I consider all manner of subjects, both academic and arcane, I feel lucky, rather than unlucky, to live at the end of Fort Weaver Road. Instead of complaining on my cell phone about how bored I am, I enlarge my world by listening to stories about Bach's 10 children and Beethoven's digestive problems. I know, for example, which of Beethoven's symphonies opens with a -- well -- musical rendition of flatulence. This and other interesting trivia often translate to stories I tell my students, usually to their amusement.
Maybe that's what it's all about -- the making of stories. While we're stuck in traffic, our stories aren't being forged, and that's a good thing because a story made in traffic usually has an unfortunate outcome. With taped learning programs, we can enter into and participate in other people's stories, and make them our own. That isn't such a bad deal for a late workday afternoon on H-1.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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