Wow that last paragraph gave me chills. I never thought about it that way, but you're right. Being stuck in what is supposed to be a liminal space does create a feeling of dread.
I drive a 2014 Volvo and I find myself knocking into those curbs too. I also seem to remember that when I was growing up - 70s & 80s - there were no curbs. I feel like there were just lanes, but I could be imagining this? To me, the curbs seem like a really cynical design addition -- what if there were an emergency and you really had to leave?
Thank you for reading and for such a thoughtful response. When I wrote this I really did want to take a deep dive into the curb issue, but wasn't really sure I had the writing chops to explain what I wanted to explain, in part because it's such a weird and specific thing to think about. Thank you for getting it.