Jul 13, 2012

Otherwise, it's a big waste of space.

Far back as I can remember, a certain epiphany falls on me, every single time I take a road trip. It doesn't happen until the city I've come from has long since vanished in the horizon of my rear view mirror, and long before my destination is even a mirage on the road ahead. It's in this surreal landscape of "neither here nor there" that it quietly slides from one of the folds of my cerebrum and curls up in my arms.

It starts small, too. A car passes in the opposite direction, always too fast to make out anything but the barest essence of the driver and their passengers. I almost want to wave, like they yet do in some parts of the world, like we might accidentally be neighbors and should probably be friendly just in case. But my hands stay on the wheel, 10 and 2. I imagine the other driver, and think they might be doing the very same thing. There might even be a moment where they think about waving at me, just in an effort to be friendly. After all, they're on the far edge of no man's land, and that nearness to their destination can be a heady mixture of exhaustion and adrenaline.

I'm like that on the last few miles into my hometowns. I've engraved them all in my mind, to where Pavlov smiles his knowing smile at me, recognizing in my expression the face of a man coming home again. Maybe this other driver is coming home. Maybe he's been away too long - maybe "too long" even means but a day - and his own home, his own favorite chair, his television and its remote have been practicing their "welcome home" and yearning for the chance to let it ring out. And he'll sit back, kick of the driving shoes and sip a cold beer to wash away the thick dryness that only a long drive can create.

Or maybe they're just now starting their adventure, too; only in the opposite direction. Nature abhors a vacuum; maybe they have to go to Seattle to fill the space temporarily left by me and my family? I'm excited for them on their future experiences. I love my city, but I love sharing it. I don't mind letting folks use it a bit whenever I go away, there's plenty of it to go around. Try the clam chowder or the salmon, it's almost always excellent.

Either way, I don't know them, and they don't know me, but here we are, each going a mile a minute in different directions, but just for a moment sharing almost the same space. Is it fair that two families can cross paths so quickly and so closely and yet know nothing about one another? Seems like a terrible injustice. I'm sure they're excellent people, and as I see their tail lights in my mirrors, joining with the great convergence of sky and land, I mourn that missed opportunity.

I should have waved.

At some point after that, I start to look at the houses as we speed past. House, house, house. Cars in the driveway, toys in the yard. Satellite dishes. Lovely landscaping. Each house is at least one story; each story has dozens of chapters. I drive by, wondering what stories are going on right at that moment.

And that's when it happens: I find myself wondering, is there someone in that house who, right now, is looking out at my car driving past, and wondering, "is there someone in that car who, right now, is looking out at my house as they drive past, and wondering, 'is there someone in that house...'..."

My mind takes that thought and unravels it like a great ball of yarn. It's a delicious and impossible imagining, and feels like the essence of staring into the abyss and counting the stars, wondering who else is looking back. Because the truth is, there's ALWAYS somebody out there, somewhere - whether in one of those houses by the roadside or on another planet somewhere out in the universe, looking back.

I know there's a lot of talk about monkeyspheres and proximity to association, and a lot of discussion about the internet and how it reduces our sociological parameters, but, sometimes - - usually when I find myself right about halfway between where I've been and where I'm going... I just feel like maybe we're all the same; maybe we're all just not all or always on the same page. Maybe we just forget that we're all doing our own thing in an effort to understand our purpose.

Maybe the key to our ongoing struggle to fight together against our own failings is a reminder that even though we're all unique, we're all individuals, we're all separate and distinct creatures, that we're really all just bits of the greater whole.So I invite you to take a moment, today - turn the volume down on the rest of the road noise and look out the window, and recognize that you're not the only person looking across into the other lane and wondering about your fellow travelers.

With any luck, they're looking back at you at that very minute and doing the same thing.

Have a good day, my friends.


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