I realized just last night that I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car in a month. My silver Toyota Matrix is like a second home — sometimes literally, as in the past I’ve found myself shlepping an entire film set under the hood, complete with a desk lamp, an oil painting, two or three blankets and an old CRTV. I’m the type of person who relishes any opportunity to drive. Coming home from a friend’s late at night, I’ll often take a slightly longer route to make sure I hear all the right songs before pulling into my street. Sometimes, even, a couple of laps around the cul de sac.
Roaming Passeig de Gràcia a couple weeks ago with my friend Brooks, we had a conversation about how Google is developing cars that will be able to evaluate traffic patterns and eventually drive themselves. I told Brooks how much that scares me, not being able to control your fate as thousands of other automated vehicles whiz by, rushing their passengers to whatever endeavor, grand or menial, they happen to be embarking upon. What scares me isn’t so much the potential danger as the inevitable loss of freedom — the freedom that, before arriving in Barcelona, I natively associated with the open stretch of road, with speed, mystery, progress and longing, Jack Kerouac, or if you prefer (as I do) Don DeLillo’s Americana.
That Saturday I overslept and missed the very fun (from what I’ve been told) trip to Montserrat. Whoops. Instead I left my bedroom in the afternoon with three objectives: 1) to get out of the house, 2) to top-up my cell phone, and 3) to eat. I accomplished all of those things, but the strongest memory of that day is walking in the pleasant light-jacket weather and being perfectly content. I walked past the familiar façades and terrace restaurants, then the unfamiliar ones, many types of dogs and few with leashes, cafés, pastelerias, comic book shops and several couples kissing in the street. I saw a man dressed like a tiger and a girl dressed like a skunk, and the price of patatas braves creep up from 3,50 to 4,20 as I neared the Barrio Gòtic.
Brooks and I ended our conversation discussing what will happen when humans are able to build machines that can autonomously improve their own technology. I then wondered what would happen when we run out of complaints — out of things to joke about — and are instead surrounded by things we fear and don’t understand. That day is far in the future, I’d like to think: I like being able to drive my car or leave it at home and walk instead. I like happening across my new friends in the park after class, playing ping-pong with their new friends from Denmark and Italy. I like the narrow and the wide streets, Born and Eixample, uphill and downhill, the pressure on my feet. I like Goya, and Philip Guston. I like the naked guy who walked by on the beach. I like the samosa dudes significantly more than the cerveza dudes who wait for us by the Metro stops. And I like being able to list all this even though I won’t soon forget.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! I’m a third year English major and film enthusiast at the University of Virginia. I grew up in Great Falls, VA – a suburb a few miles outside Washington, D.C. – but have always wanted the chance to explore a city like Barcelona independently. In recent years I’ve travelled through many cities in Western Europe – including Berlin and Prague – and I spent three weeks this past summer visiting my sister in Kuanton, Malaysia, where she was teaching English at a state school. The blog she kept up during her time in Kuanton inspired me to blog for IES. I hope you enjoy my musings!</span></p>