I am driving home from work with the rest of the workaday schlubs. Nothing unusual. Not tonight - another night. Well it could be any night. Listening to some music on the radio, or perhaps NPR, or perhaps catching up with my Mom. Or just driving and observing.
Now of course, I am driving carefully, defensively, but I am also wondering who people are in the cars around me. It's a hot muggy day - at 5:30 the temps are still pushing above 90F. There is an old Cadillac in the middle lane that I observe. Rust eating away at its once magnificent doors. I mean to drive such a gas guzzler in this environment where gas runs an extra mortgage payment each month, well it doesn't seem he would consciously choose this vehicle. He's not ostentatious in the "I drive a Hummer" way. I don't despise him because of the guzzler, I feel sorry for him. The man driving it has the windows rolled down - maybe his A/C doesn't even work. His hair is wavy and the wind is just blowing through it. He's looking around observing cars - admiring their make I imagine, while his car moves along with a slight bounce, maybe needing shocks. No, he's driving this car because he needs to. Somebody gave it to him and he needs wheels to get to his job. For he does not have a career. He has a job. And there is a song on the radio "The Road Goes on Forever" sung by Robert Earl Keen.
And I am nervous looking at him as I am making up his story. This happens every now and again. Happened one evening when there were helicopters above and oops, should have not come this way - police activity. One car after the other speeds by. When I catch up at least 7-8 police cars (marked/unmarked) have one SUV pulled over and surrounded with a long haired guy cuffed and in the front while they rip his SUV apart. He looks a little scared but is trying to play it cool. And I am nervous. And I wonder what does he sell? How much time will he do? Does he not have a life worth living? Did someone set him up?
I imagine that these people make me nervous because they seem to be too close to the people that I grew up with, in the crappy town that we called "home". And too close to the lineage that would have us all addicted to drugs or doing time. I don't know what separated us from some of the common street thugs that we grew up alongside, perhaps even had an illicit transaction with. Not to say that I come from a family of criminals, but what separated us from them? We are closer to this ilk than to that guy in the next lane passing me on the left in the nice white Volvo, Columbia University sticker in the rear window and nice neat haircut (he could be this guy's lawyer). Intellectually, I imagine we belong in the lawyer's circle, but some crappy birthright has me feeling sorry and relating to the schlubs. Don't ask. I am as far removed from this ilk as a person who sprung fully formed from finishing school would be. That's right I tell myself.
"Does anyone else feel nervous in their cars?" I wonder as I turn up NPR and click the A/C up a notch and continue on my journey home.