Today, I drove. Not the usual daily hackjob. I wanted to understand what I was doing.
The key unlocked the steering and the wheel shook itself briefly, as if loosening up after a long nap, and settled down. It felt good, like a weight someone has lifted off your shoulders. The cylinders firing up felt good too. Like a jovial kick in the backside, the kind a benevolent friend offers when you’re worn out.
As I pulled out of the parking and made my way to the interstate I could feel the machine gathering momentum, pulling me along for the ride. It’s a deadly relationship between the accelerator pedal and you. A light touch and you get instant response. Not just any ol’ response, a whine, a roar, a growl (depending on what you drive) but universally, a tacit admission of compliance; a promise to obey and delight. That delight is so addictive!
The roar felt amazing. I gathered more speed and hit the highway. So many cars! Had to wiggle my way through the stream of laggards in the right lane to take my rightful place among the brave few on the left who could hold their own in inclement weather or the scrutinizing waves of a speed gun. At least, I think of that as my rightful place on the highway. There I don’t get in anyone’s way, no one gets in mine and there’s always someone to chase. I love the chase. When someone sets the standard my natural instinct is to see if I can keep up. It’s a way to test my skills and judgment. Of course, this may occasionally lead to trouble with a passing cop but I’m not risky, just curious.
I hit the lane I want and the engine’s settled into a stable fifth gear hum; cogs turning, fuel burning. It’s a reassuring feeling and makes me want to hit such a steady rhythm in my life – work, home. Occasionally I’ll turn to admire a passing car (or more likely, a car I’m passing, hee hee). Some love the adulation, others are uncomfortable and speed up slightly to get out of my field of view. And yet another interesting bunch think of it as a hatchet being waved in their faces. These folks start keeping pace and ensure they always stay ahead of you. A few have even pulled right in front of me, forcing me to slow down. Man, I hate people who deliberately break your rhythm when no malice was intended. (Err, you’re a fine one to talk. Haven’t you been accused of doing the same? Who? Me? No way! Yeah right! You’ve gotta believe…Yeah yeah, keep your eyes on the road buddy). Sigh.
I change lanes and choose a clearer patch of road so I can maintain my momentum. Innovation. The days I don’t choose a dignified response, I get into trouble. It usually means I’m weaving across lanes, disturbing honest folks trundling along sedately or earning the ire of the watchdogs of road etiquette – you can spot them in the rear view when they shake their heads in disappointment at what you just did.
Eventually, I tire of this juvenile pursuit and desperately look for a gap in the road where I can settle into my groove again. But it’s not enough. My nerves have been rattled, my engine is gasping for breath, the RPM needle suddenly drops, like a finger admonishing me. The goddamned fun is gone. That’s when I know I have to get off the highway. I search for the exit that leads home.
Things instantly get better when you take the exit that leads home, leaving this speeding, struggling, trundling mass of metallic humanity to keep on keepin’ on. A symbolic fuck-off. Or was it me who fucked-off? Who cares? I’m relieved. I drive the car back home, pull into my parking slot and turn off the ignition. The engine lets out a sigh of relief as it prepares for a period of much needed rest. I exhale, partly in appreciation of the fun and partly in exhaustion. Then I’m gone, vowing to tread the straight, narrow and <55 mph the next day.
But I can never really let go of this thrill, can I? I’ll be up the next morning, looking forward to getting my car back onto the highway so I can rev, race, cruise, keep up. Whatever’s the dish of the day.
And that’s OK, as long as I always remember there’s an exit which leads home.