Forget his latest novel, Purity, and pick up Jonathan Franzen’s latest essay at Chipotle. That’s right, the burrito chain.
Franzen is one of 11 new writers to take part in Chipotle’s Cultivating Thought series, started by novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. The project puts short, illustrated essays and prose on Chipotle’s bags and cups, designed to give customers something to read while they eat. Other authors who have participated so far include Toni Morrison and Malcolm Gladwell.
The other new authors besides Franzen are M.T. Anderson, Anthony Doerr, Stephen J. Dubner, Laura Esquivel, Laura Hillenbrand, Sue Monk Kidd, Lois Lowry, Tom Perrotta, Mary Roach, and Colson Whitehead.
In an interview with Cultivating Thought, Franzen said he lent his words to Chipotle because he loves the company. “Chipotle store credit was a decisive factor,” he said. “Chipotle is my go-to fast food restaurant. I also admire its wish to be a good corporate citizen.”
When describing his two-minute read, Franzen said, “I dislike the phrase ‘pet peeve,’ both the pet part and the peeve part, but it’s a good description of how I feel about traffic signage. I’d been looking for a venue in which to vent my little peeve.”
His whole essay, “Two-Minute Driving Lesson,” can be found at CultivatingThought.com, and the first bit is excerpted below.
We’re told that, as a species, human beings are hard-wired to take the short view, to discount a future that may never come anyway; just ask the traffic engineers who compose the texts that are painted on city streets. They seem to presume that you’re driving with your eyes fixed on a spot directly beyond the hood of your vehicle. You’re supposed to be like: Oh, now, there’s a PED… and now here comes a XING (which looks Chinese but isn’t)… and then—well, here things become somewhat incoherent, because, if you’re taking such an extremely short view, how are you even supposed to see a pedestrian who’s starting to cross the street? It’s weird. When you learn to drive, you’re told to aim high with your steering. But if the message you read, in a normal top-to-bottom way, is BUS TO YIELD, you’re making a mistake. The furiously merging bus is expecting you to yield. Only a bad driver would know this. And so, to survive in a modern world in which not only traffic engineering but our reigning political and economic systems reward shortsightedness, you learn to think, or to not think, like a bad driver. You YIELD TO BUS.
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