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Push Me Pull You

Updated on December 29, 2012

Going nowhere

Standing at the window of my Los Angeles area hotel room last week, I watched the stream of un-moving traffic on the freeway outside. It's amazing to me that a metropolis of this size has allowed such an obvious problem to not be remedied. I understand all the different perspectives on this, but seriously? This is an acceptable outcome?

I'm reminded of the old story about the Pushmi-Pullyu (push me pull you) - Dr. Dolittle's fictional creature that can't go anywhere because it's controlled by two heads, each of which want to go in a different direction...and so as a result goes nowhere.

Our world is so full of ideas and youthful unbridled energy. Put into motion like that of a rowing team and we can launch rockets into space to allow a human being to walk in the moon. We can create technology to conduct delicate laser eye surgery to make people like me who spent their whole life blurry, to now see perfectly.

I believe we spend over 80% of our energy being push me-pull yous. We fight against one another, yelling at full volume about what we think other people want, without realizing we completely miss their point because we weren't listening.

We get locked into being right instead of relevant.


"Most people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying and defending them." ~ John L. Mason

Pulling together


I've learned to stay away from the "why" questions, as well as the "should's" and "if only's" - none of which are terribly useful. And frankly, it's not only fruitless, but boring listening to people gripe about the world not working the way they want it to.

Instead, I'm more intrigued by the "what can we do about it?" and "how can we make things work better?" questions. So I'm not a big push me pull you fan. It's like watching Jersey Shore. Kinda pointless.

I understand all of the circumstances that led a city like Los Angeles to not have an effective transportation system. There are some who would even dispute that - and say that LA has an incredibly advanced system for transportation. But those people can't be spending hours stuck in traffic. The kind of traffic that makes some people so angry they shoot other drivers.

Which is what makes efforts involving people working together interdependently toward a common goal so amazing. Rowing teams are a terrific example, as are any type of team, frankly. The concept of synergy, surrendering of ego, commitment to a cause greater than the individual.


"Synergy is the highest activity of life; it creates new untapped alternatives; it values and exploits the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people." ~ Stephen Covey

Tokyo's Metro trains
Tokyo's Metro trains | Source

Getting there

Systems of transit are just one of many examples where a well thought-through, collaborative, strategically executed plan of action can make such a profound difference in our lives. Another more locally has to do with construction of a sports arena for the Sacramento Kings - I just want to say "pick a side" and make it happen. After awhile, you just tire of the fruitless debate.

So I decided to research some of the best systems of transit in the world, and here's what I found: Hong Kong successfully transports 7 million passengers through their city every day. That accounts for 90% of all travel. And it means people get to spend more time doing things that matter, rather than sucking in exhaust and dodging bullets. New York's subway system transports 4.5 million people a day - and most New Yorkers don't even own a car. Paris also transports 4.5 million a day on the Metro and London transports 3.4 million people a day on the tube and the Chicago Transit Authority transports 1.6 million daily. Other cities with reportedly top-notch public transportation systems include Copenhagen, Berlin, Seoul, Taipei, Moscow and Tokyo. Of note, Tokyo's transports 8 million people a day, the subway is spotless, has heated seats, computerized messaging in Japanese and English, and a solid reputation for running on time.

In a word, you get there faster and more efficiently, because someone planned ahead.

I in no way intend to disparage LA, because it has a lot going for it. This is just an example of an unintended outcome that has far-reaching negative impacts. Throughout the world, we have example after example of innovations, technological advancements and visionaries, who can think through the ugliness of the present to create a better future - one that presents us all with the kind of potential we all desire. I know everyone has an opinion about how to get there, but when we can let go of our narrow, self-serving perspectives, there is no limit to what we can do.


"The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." ~ John Sculley


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    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      What were we talking about...? :-p

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You've got bigger fish to catch. Now, stay focused! :D

    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Or perhaps at least a wise ass! My mind moves in mysterious ways - I was literally sipping my coffee, looking out and remembered the pushmi-pullyu from storybook days. Of interest was that it's actually based on a book authored by Hugh Lofting from 1920 - though I imagine it may have served as inspiration for Dr. Seuss' magic!

      I know - NY isn't known for the ability to get about on the streets, but there's just a massive number of people there, so I think it's relative. That you can design a system of moving people efficiently is astonishing in and of itself. LA is just unplanned. It reminds me of the expression, "either you're ignorant or incompetent"; meaning, either someone didn't think of this in advance, or they did and they're just stupid!

      A billion is a BUNCH of bucks. It'll be interesting to see how that works. I could design a big catapult and catcher's mitt for half that - just put me in touch with the right people in Miami, and I'll put together my bid... ;-)


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The city of Miami is now building a $1 billion port tunnel project connecting the mainland with Watson Island, where Port of Miami stands. Even though the port is considered "Cruise Capital of the World" and "Cargo Gateway of the Americas" the idea is that this tunnel will alleviate traffic. Ha! That's a laugh! (sorry, it's the fatalist in me talking.)

      My thinking about NY transportation system is this... the subway works beautifully, but you still can't drive down the streets. So, how efficient is a remedy that is constantly being outgrown?

      Great article. I loved the Dr. Seuss reference. Such a wise man!

    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Thanks, EuroCafe!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thanks for a great Hub, you hit the nail on the head. There is also the example of the buffalo herd rushing headlong down a cliff, or the bird formation flying in a V where each has a bird's eye view of the destination, with alternate "leaders" piloting the flock. All good food for thought. Voted up and beautiful.

    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Amen, JamaGenee and Joyce. I didn't really want to dog LA, because, like I said, there are many cool things there, but this is such a blatant oversight, I felt compelled to write about it. I love San Francisco, but I could go on and on about the lack of public bathrooms there. Bring a five-year old with a bladder problem there and you'll see what I mean.

      I just think people get too embedded into the problem instead of scoping out solutions and rowing together. So where it happens, I'm impressed!


    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Having lived there 1980-1999, I reconized the 405 freeway it was like that during the whole I lived in Santa Monica. There was forever talk about putting a subway in, then we two earthquakes a number of years apart, so talk was stopped. Vote up, Joyce.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Freeway gridlock is THE main reason I've never had a desire to visit L.A. Dallas-Ft Worth is now second on the "Won't go there!" list after I spent two hours on its freeways before I could get off safely and arrange for a guide to lead me out of that mess and back to civilization.

      I don't have comparison stats at my fingertips, but if memory serves, the London metro area covers more square miles that L.A. And yet, as you and your dad both mentioned (in spite of the occasional Tube breakdown or strike, which you didn't), it's a piece of cake to get from any part of London to any other part in minutes.

      Americans are simply too in love with the "independence" an automobile supposedly affords them. I certainly would't give up my car to get around in non-metro areas of the U.S. right now. I also have NO problem relying on public transport in foreign countries, and would be happy to leave the car at home here, too, if we had the all-inclusive public transport systems Europeans pretty much consider a "right".

      Voted up and awesome! ;D

    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      I know - isn't that incredible we can't get on high speed rail in the US? I think we were innovators in the 1800s with the railroad, but then went backward when we bought the ploy that inflated rubber (tires) were the better solution. As Homer Simpson would say, "D'oh!"

    • yoginijoy profile image


      6 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Great and informative hub! I think you said it all with the phrase "surrendering of ego". Until we are able to master that part of the equation, I agree with you that we are stuck with the push/pull phenomenon. However, I do think that what you are doing, modeling efficiency, even when that means not engaging with others, can eventually be quite helpful. We need to slow down and listen to each other to speed up. On a side note, will we ever get the fast trains in the USA? I want to vote for whomever will build them!

    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Thank you. It just makes more sense. It just seems to odd to me a major population area can let such an obvious mistake get worse and worse. It's not like there wasn't a point years ago when someone said, "this could be a problem." It's that - for whatever reason, for whatever conflict or difference of opinion, no visionary was there to take a strong stand to point out they were getting lost in the forest for the trees. This same argument could be taken to our current political climate. It's the same principle in my "Us and Them" hub...


    • Jackwms profile image


      6 years ago

      Greg, that is just masterful. So many of us know this, but not much is being done about it. Your question:

      "what can we do about it?" and "how can we make things work better?"

      I really don't know. We just loved it when we have been in Europe and could take trains, metros, and other public transportation at just about any time of the day or night.

      Anyway, a really good post.


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