Saturday, March 28, 2009

Merge Ballet

I drove yesterday. I did other things, of course, but the driving part took up a significant amount of time. I did it alone — well, my new alone, which is with Matthew strapped in the back. So often lately, I've been the passenger that I've forgotten how good it feels to simply operate a vehicle on the highway.

It was warm yesterday and I drove south on Rt. 130. I opened the window and the wind mussed up my hair a bit. A couple of songs I like came on the radio, which enhanced the experience. I even caught myself speeding — just a wee bit — on the few stretches of open road provided by the otherwise stop-n-go of Rt. 130.

I've never been a very angry driver, and have a very low tolerance for them, which I generally keep to myself, especially when riding shotgun, because almost nothing pisses off an angry driver more than a passenger more or less pleading with him/her to take a deep breath. I've often seen my lack of road rage to be a failing, because it makes me so different from so many other people in the world. Other than some occasional speeding, I am pathologically calm on the road. I keep a wide berth, I expect to encounter dummies, and I have a voice in my head telling me that everyone else — even the dummies — are just like me: people trying to get from Point A to Point B.

I was, like most people, shaped by my mother, who was not so much an angry driver, either, as much as she was a superior driver, in her mind. Compared to everyone else on the road, her mission was more important, as well as her overall purpose in life. And she also liked to tell us that she was a much better driver than everyone else, besides. Therefore, you see, all of the other drivers were incredibly annoying to her. This attitude made her feel that the laws of the road were mere guidelines, which she could follow if she was in the mood to do so. My mom was not often deliberately confrontational on the road. She did not often, for instance, usually pass people on the shoulder, nor did she cut them off, but believe me, there are MANY liberties one can take on the road without doing those two things. For instance, stop signs and the painted lines on the road fell clearly into the optional category for my mother. The steering wheel allowed her to "dance" on the road to the tune on the radio.

Driving with my mother, until I was able to drive myself, was a joy. When I turned 17, it became a terrifying experience, and I heard a lot, "Oh, CALM DOWN, Chrissy! I can do this if I WANT TO," as she rode the center yellow line of a secondary highway. "No one else is around, and the road is smoother in the center, OKAY?" I'm not a bad passenger, but driving with my mother once I was old enough to cart myself around, helped me to see the wonder in the collective, and the glorious history of lawmaking, and most importantly, how absolutely freeing it can be to NOT be special. It opened my eyes to how satisfying it can be to be a member of the same species, just doing what we do. "Hey, I'm just like you," feels SO much better than, "Hey asshole, get out of my way!"

I've done a lot of things in my life; I've been a lot of places, and seen a lot of stuff. I've been a front-line witness to that wavy thin line that separates life from death, from both sides. So many people say that birth is a miracle, and I am a mother, so on many levels, I appreciate that sentiment, but I don't agree with it. It's a marvel, to be sure, a gift, a powerful force, with a bit of mystery tossed in. But it's also part of our biology, as it is part of the biology of fleas, too. Reproduction is what living creatures on this planet do. What separates us is not our ability to appreciate the birth of our children (unlike flea parents, perhaps), but rather, our ability to drive, and everything that comes along with it.

And what I've forgotten until today, and maybe you have too, is that we are so young in our driving experience, and yet, look at our fantastic bridges, and our Garmin Nuvies, our temperature controls (we even have individual butt warmers in Glen's car), our power EVERYTHING, our new and improved transmissions. In general, we successfully navigate the illogical Whitehorse Circle. Traffic lights and merging lanes are like ballet, ebbing and flowing with beautiful choreography. I think about the miracle of merging — and it is truly a miracle — whenever I'm on the road. An enormous amount of effort and time and labor and debate and trial and error went into the making of the merge. And the execution of the merge involves SO many variables: personalities, steel, gadgetry; so much pavement; flora and fauna; music; there are weather conditions, speed, and laws to be considered.

Merging, as well as driving in general, almost always goes off without a hitch, if you step back and admire it from a distance. Which I do. Because of the crazy amount of potential for disaster, which almost never happens, it's just hard for me to get pissed off at anyone else (on the road). That's not to say that there aren't some particularly bad drivers out there, drivers with some sort of pre-existing condition, like anger or stupidity. For them, and for everyone else, I wish calmness; I wish that everyone is gently reminded that just a hundred years ago, there were no power windows; I wish for everyone, the ability to appreciate the sun on your faces, and the wind in your hair or the rhythm of the wipers; and regardless, a good tune on the radio.

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