There was a brand new, silver titanium Honda Civic living in front of Arthur. Behind him, a yellow Volkswagen beetle, one of the new-old beetles that were actually shaped like bugs. His left-side neighbors had a white Lexus big enough to sleep the whole family, including the dog. But the guy on his right had the best set-up of all: he’d been driving a pick-up truck when traffic had come to a sudden and permanent halt outside of the 93 southbound tunnel, and he’d just bought a brand new grill. Needless to say, once the drivers had realized that the flow of traffic was never going to resume, a new social order had started to bloom, and Grill Guy was at the top.
Arthur lived in Grill Guy’s penumbra. He wasn’t the best-loved guy in the traffic jam, but nobody bothered him, either. He didn’t have much to bother about. His gas tank had been the first of many siphoned off to fuel the grill. He’d already donated his hubcaps to the pigeon hunters. His radio was just a radio – no AUX input, no USB port – and his speakers were just speakers. He’d smoked all his cigarettes in the first couple days, an act he regretted since a single smoke could now buy you just about any item or service in the vicinity. The upswing was that, without running motors and cigarette smoke, the air in their four-lane world was beginning to freshen up a little, especially due to regulations that designated specific tunnel space for sanitary needs. Those who failed to comply had their cars requisitioned to build additional stalls for privacy.
Life, however, had not become purely pragmatic. With fewer and fewer i-device charging possibilities, people were re-discovering how to be social. They gathered to listen to music or NPR. If people wanted to watch movies, they visited the Lexus next door and crowded around the screens attached to the headrests, though the movie selection – mostly Disney and Pixar – had grown a bit stale. A mile or so back, a party bus had ground to a halt in the permanent darkness of the tunnel, and if you were willing to walk past the bathrooms, you could attend an actual party at any time of day or night. They had to keep refilling their gas tank, posing a bit of competition for Grill Guy, but in the end, most people decided that cooking the pigeons before they ate them was more important than chilling the vodka (or what remained of it) and dancing in what was essentially a box full of blinky lights.
The eighteen-wheeler a little ways ahead tooted its horn, alerting the community that a food package had been delivered over the side of an overpass. The large truck was perfectly positioned to receive these offerings from above, which came a few times a day but were never enough for everyone. In a minute, the mad scramble would begin: pounding footsteps leaping from car to car, desperate for a meal better than grilled pigeon.