“Without a door to open, the key to success is useless.”
“I try my best not to slip and fall and spill words on a page by accident. And by that I mean words don’t appear on the page by mistake; but sometimes I do fall asleep behind the wheel and wake up to discover a 27 word pileup that’s blocking traffic both ways and has created a backup for several miles. Emergency services are not on their way.”
Last Friday, in one sitting, I drove from Orange County, California to Seattle, Washington, my old stomping grounds. I left at 6:00 am Friday and arrived at 2:00 am Saturday. This is a list of some of the things I saw:
-Pavement. Lots of pavement.
-The sunrise gradually warm the hazy skies over Los Angeles.
-A sprinkler spraying water over a dry field, but the water turned to mist in the heat and drifted away before it could hit the soil. When I drove past, it looked as though the sprinkler was tired of being a sprinkler, and wanted instead to be a rainbow machine.
-Miles of cows on a cattle farm. Typically I don’t measure livestock in units of distance, but here it was appropriate. I’m not sure what the proper unit to measure stench is, but let’s just say it was not mild.
-A cow carcass on the side of the road.
-A tractor with eight foot tall wheels and a footprint wider than the lane it was ‘in,’ rolling through town like it was a compact car.
-The jet stream overhead as it pulled a ribbon of wispy clouds across the sky.
-Signs everywhere telling politicians to “STOP THE DUST BOWL.”
-Christian themed rap was on the radio… and it was good. I was shocked.
-A line of southbound cars backed up so long that while driving 75 mph I was able to listen to “Kashmir” by Led Zepplin in its entirety before the line thinned out. I wanted to roll down my window and shout to those blissfully unaware of the traffipocalypse, “Turn back now! You can still be saved!”
-A motorcycle made by John Deer parked on the sidewalk at a truck stop. It looked old, and was probably rare, but all I could think of was the CEO of John Deer thinking, “How can we cut grass faster?”
-A young man poppin’ bottles by the dumpster in broad day light — literally. His job was to forcefully dispose of empty wine bottles from the night before.
-A bumber sticker for “KONY 2012”
-A sign for “BRAKE TEST AREA” before a long steep downhill… isn’t the whole hill a brake test anyways? I already did the hard part of getting over the hill–why do you have to take a practice test when you only need to pass the final exam?
-Entire orchards and fields dried up and abandoned with only dust devils patrolling the rows of gnarled trees.
-Half of a deer. It came and went so fast in my headlights that avoiding it was simply a matter of reflex, yet the sight, although brief, is something I can’t unsee.
-Two guys on the radio talking about their new book, “Treat Me Like a Customer,” which is about managing relationships with the same devotion you would give to your work. I took notes. Better to learn now than as an afterthought.
-Tumbleweeds that have long since stopped tumbling.
-Several nameless roads waiting for a name. “Road 22.” “Road 8.” “Road 12.” I think they’re just placeholders waiting for someone to do something amazing so they can rename the roads, but right now they’re still waiting.
-A phone conversation that ended with the exchange, “Sorry, it’s hard to hear you.” “Sounds good :) Bye!”
-Tire skid marks that trailed off the road and ended at the foot of a large tree where a white cross and flowers were set.
-The familiar signs, streets, and scenery, all slightly different than I’d left them.
Two people lived on a small man-made island just off the shore of the mainland. These two residents were not the only people on this island, but they lived alone. The residents were both on a schedule, both lived through their days as a series of habits, and were both looking for love (trust me. I’m an omniscient narrator). They both worked hard and found comfort in a solid routine as the foundation for a ‘good life,’ and thus were both bound by their schedules — “imprisoned” might be a better word.
A unique feature of this island is that it was a perfect circle with a sidewalk that hugged the perimeter. There were twelve equally spaced streets radiating from a where a big clock tower stood in the heart of the town. You could keep track of the time from almost anywhere on the island, as our two residents would frequently do.
You see, even time is man-made. Not the concept of time, but how we choose to restrict ourselves with it. Seconds. Hours. Years — don’t tell me nothing lasts forever. I don’t want to hear it.
Every morning these two residents would wake up at the same time, step onto the same sidewalk, turn right, and walk clockwise until they came back to where they started. Their schedules wove together like two gears — however, they lived on opposite sides of the island and always walked clockwise at the same time. What these two residents didn’t realize, and would never come to realize, is that this ordinary, scheduled walk was so precise, so routine, and so expected, that the absence of anticipation surrounding it drew about as much attention to the walk as you will give to your next breath, which is extraordinary. Extraordinarily dull.
It is still unclear to me, the omniscient narrator, whether the two residents scheduled to walk each morning, or whether they walked because the schedule told them to. Of course, the residents think to be in complete control, and that is why they stick to the schedule — the sense of order and control — but from the outside looking in, it seems as if control was simply an illusion created by the predictability of a clock.
When you do something so much, you don’t even know what you’re missing anymore; you just assume it’s not there.
Our two residents would wake up every day, go on their clockwise walk, and eventually fall asleep in the same bed they woke up in, and repeated this controlled, scheduled, living habit for so many days that the memories of the past years of this routine congealed into one solitary memory. One day, one of the residents noticed they looked older, felt older, and consequently tried to recall how that happened, but could only come to the conclusion that “time flies.” It was at this time, I, the omniscient narrator, decided this resident decided to go for a walk that morning. The same walk as always, but upon this day this resident choose to walk counterclockwise as a gesture of change, as a way to motivate this resident to start breaking the very routine that this resident had resided in for so long.
It was free. It was clear. It was new. Surely memories would be made on this day as the two residents approached each other around the bend of the man-made island. They were destined to meet. As their paths crossed, they greeted each other with a congenial smile accompanied by a neighborly “hello,” and kept on walking down the path without breaking stride, or their respective schedules. A whole history of new possibilities came into existence on that unclockwise walk, and then disappeared as simply as the path on which they walked curved out of sight around the island, and disappeared without the memory of even saying ‘goodbye.’
As I was driving down the interstate somewhere between the bay and Sacramento, an attractive young girl passed me on the right, but slowed down and stayed even with me. I looked over and she was looking back and giggling to herself. I may have raised an eyebrow or two, but couldn’t figure what the fuss was about. She seemed so blissfully lost in the moment of taking her red coupe across the state… Why do attractive girls always drive fast red cars?
I swerved a little and figured I should pay attention to the road more than I was, but I couldn’t help but keep looking back over at her. There’s something so captivating when you make contact with someone on the highway. You’re both zooming by at deathly speeds, yet you stop and take the time to look each other in the eye. There’s no pressure, no expectations, and no formalities. You’re not ‘supposed’ to meet people on the highway. You probably won’t ever see them again. It’s like seeing a person stripped down without all the defenses they wear or disguises they put up in order to function in society. If you don’t see anything worth looking at, you look away and move on, or conversely, you keep looking to see what will happen in this short amount of time.
She pressed a napkin against the window and wrote on it, holding the pen cap in her teeth, and then turned it around. It was a phone number, and from the look on her face, it was hers. I checked my rear view so I didn’t get pulled over for texting, but there was no one around. I typed the number down and gave her a thumbs up. She winked and then sped off.
I never did see her again. I pulled over at the next rest stop thinking she might be there. I called the number. “We’re sorry. This number cannot be completed as dialed. Please hang up, or–” I must have typed it down wrong. There’s no spellcheck for phone numbers. I waited at the rest stop for quite some time looking back in the direction I came. I don’t know why. Maybe I was waiting for her to pull in to the rest stop, but the truth was she was zooming down the highway. Our encounter was so brief that I didn’t know what to make of it until it was gone, so I got back in my car and decided I have a lot of road ahead of me; and a lot of driving left to do.
The steering wheel is useless unless you are moving.
Yes, and the motor is useless if the first thing you do is crash.
So why are we arguing?
Because that’s the only way anything ever gets done.
I mean, why are we arguing about this? It’s safe to say we both agree on the concept.
Yes, but you insist on being the head while saying I’m just the body.
Oh don’t you go switching the metaphor now.
…This must be what marriage is like.
No. Marriage is like the car you drive; you both don’t like it, but you drive it anyways.
That’s a rather bleak comparison.
It’s the best I could do without a compass.