Rules are supposed to follow themselves. By definition and as a practical matter, rules should not change into their opposite. Our construction of reality is predicated upon the expectation that things will be and shall not be what they are not. Just as parallel lines should not meet, so sidewalks should not become streets and throughways should not become parking lots.
A False Turn
I have had several experiences in Southern California where rule-expectation was so transformed. One episode occurred while I was at a conference in Los Angeles. I was staying at a downtown hotel (the conference was over two days), and the meetings I was to attend were held at another downtown hotel, perhaps ten blocks distant. In the dimming light of a warm evening, I decided to walk from the meeting hotel to my residence hotel, rather than riding a shuttle. I was generally familiar with Los Angeles, so it did not occur to me to take a map with me to guide my way. I began to walk along sidewalks, crossing from block to block at crosswalks, following a zig-zag route to my hotel. After six or seven blocks, the sidewalks began to narrow; nonetheless, the street signs seemed straightforward and I made my way to my hotel with confidence. Geographically, my hotel was located on a hill. As I expected, my route took me up a long, slight rise in streets. The sidewalk, narrowing now to barely two feet in width, curved up around a building as I approached my hotel, which I could see was several blocks away. The concrete sidewalk was now only 1 foot wide. I walked around the corner of the building. As I did, I found myself standing on the top of a concrete retaining wall, seventy feet above the Harbor Freeway. With no fence separating me from the freeway space, I looked down upon six lanes of roaring rushing automobiles. I was completely surprised; I felt faint. The sidwalk had transformed into a freeway. Fortunately, I did not pass out; if I had, I would have fallen to my death, to be crushed beneath dozens of automobiles on the highway of hell below me. I turned around and slowly walked back. I traced my route back toward the buildings and surface streets of the city. After several blocks, I found a different route to my hotel.
A False False-Turn
A second episode occurred only a few months ago when I was driving at night through the interchange of the 91 and 60/215 freeways in Riverside. I was going to transition from travelling southeast on the 60 freeway to travelling west on the 91 freeway. I have lived in Southern California for 34 years. I have made this transition hundreds of times. Every foot of the transition ramp was familiar to me. I knew precisely how the ramp would merge with the outer lanes of the 91-west. Although the interchange was being rebuilt, the signage was perfectly clear, indicating the ramp to move from the 60 to the 91. The older signage, which had been in place for decades, was supplemented by new signs, including mobile CalTrans flashing light signs. Completely certain of my route, I turned on my right-signal, crossed lanes, and moved onto the ramp. I could see, in my automobile headlamp beams, the ramp curve gently down toward the 91 freeway. I thought, for a second, that it seemed odd to me that I was the only driver taking his automobile onto this ramp. Traffic was rather heavy, though moving swiftly. As I approached the interchange, I saw no cars taking the ramp; all vehicles were continuing straight ahead on the 60/215. This concern was brief; the signage was clear. I began the ramp. Construction equipment, trucks, and tractors were parked in the waste acreage along side the ramp, unattended, waiting for tomorrow's work shift. I slowed my car as the ramp curved around and down. I was somewhat surprised that the painted lane lines peetered out. At its edges, the asphalt of the ramp broke up, the distinction between highway and the rough gravel and dirt of the land disappeared. Travelling at fifty miles an hour, I suddenly thought that I was on an abandoned ramp. I must have made a wrong turn somewhere. Panic rushed through me. I struck the brakes, trying to bring my car quickly to a stop. I began to look for a safe place to park where I could figure out where I was and what I should do. As my car rounded the curve, decelerating to thirty miles an hour or so, just as suddenly, I found myself on the merge lanes for the 91 freeway west. Now I had to accelerate rapidly. The merge lane ended a hundred yards ahead. I had to enter lanes of hundreds of fast-moving vehicles. My sense of unreality now snapped back to the familiar anxiety of maneuvering in Southern California's freeway traffic.
Where was my life going?