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.
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another lovely post. you've got the gift, girlfriend...
i make up stories about the odd folks i pass on the road, too... and, lately, i'm only uncomfortable when i see a kid pulled over by several cops because i fear, unless a few shifts in behavior are made, that might be my son someday. (sometimes i'll check to see if the guy looks like someone i've seen hanging out with him) not that is is likely to happen, but, as a mother, i worry. (see what you have to look forward to?)
by the way, i'm quite certain you DID spring fully formed from finishing school. your past (my past, anyone's past) merely provides perspective...and, in your case, a damn interesting one, at that! xoxo
When I commute to work I notice the cars that are the same every day. The trades vans and work truck. The semis delivering food and snacks. The nurses on the way to their shifts at the hospitals. We travel in packs, peeling off at the proper exit, for awhile part of a group and then gone until tomorrow. When someone is missing we wonder, new job, vacation? I hope they are all right.
B of HB
I think you hit the nail on the head with "intellectually." Sure I had to live with punks after the divorce, but I was the one with the scholarship to the prep school. And then again, since it was a scholarship, I wasn't one of the coke heads, alcoholics, or heroine addicts at the prep school.
I am conservative enough to wonder whether the sorts of people you describe could have made less foolish choices, but liberal enough to know that thinking like that is a good way to make myself feel better for all my good fortune.
Excellent post...great slice of life. I'm pretty sure it's this sort of day dreamy story creation that helps me make up and down the highway each day. Lots of great characters from every conceivable station of life. A documentary waiting to happen!
Very thoughtful post, g. I also occasionally look at the people I pass, or wait in line with, and wonder what their story is and how their lives developed, wonder why mine turned out the way it did.
Like Joel, I also thought it would make a documentary, or perhaps a song sung by REM.
I find my mind wondering about people's stories most when I see homeless people....wishing I could help and wondering what circumstances lead to them living on the streets.
I'm a people watcher. We can learn a lot from people by actually paying attention to them. It didn't take you too long to size them up so to speak pulling possible yet sincere realities that face people. I liked that you didn't objectize the people at all but made us see clearly how utterly human and individual they all are - or we all are. Beautiful post - it was a pleasure to look through your eyes.
outstanding post, g.
(i was right there with you dicking with the radio. is there a substation in this neiborhood or something? the signals drifting. you should get a different-wait, there it is. is that it? sounds like that mary mccoughlin, mclaughlin lady...is it? wait...)
First off, G, I must say..."I resemble that remark". Great look into the mind of our "Funny Girl", why Barbara Striesand had nothin' on you!
And, that "nervous feeling" you so aptly describe, hangs around my little mind far too much for my own liking. Kind of always there lurking in the little corners waiting to pounce as I go about my day.
I think back to our lovely hometown and frequently wonder first, how we made it out alive and second, how we all manage to live these quasi "normal" lives.
Your thoughts do make me pause to reflect. Just when I think I am doing so good though, that little thug in me peeks her head out and says, "Who do you think YOU are anyway"? As I step back in line, nervously.
Of course, that is always followed up by the "other" voice that shouts back at her "Oh shut up, who asked YOU anyway"!
So little time, so many voices. lol
Neva: Thank you. For now, it's the look of the familiar, but as a mother, I both related to and felt your fears.
Brian: Funny, strangers passing in the breeze - they were probably looking for you last week.
Weirsdo: Something to be said for earning those stripes. Maybe it's the liberal side of me that believes society and bad parenting make those choices for them, but the conservative side that believes they'd better grab hold of those bootstraps.
Joel: Thanks Joel - hmmmm, a commuters' collaboration. Yessss.
Pavel. Thanks. If you get a chance, look up the song lyrics to the song that I mentioned in the post - a movie waiting to be made.
Redneckgirl: Gives you pause doesn't it?
cj: Thanks - a thousand stories int his naked city.
FN: Thanks and what's that frequency? I could hear the static.
ShooShoo: My advice - listen to the other voice and turn up the radio! Love ya.
I make up stories about others too. Until I FREAK myself out with thoughts of "Hm...maybe he's a serial killer and he needs a victim. A patsy really. A hideout. Damn...why is he looking at me? Am I his next victim? Crap. I'm going to die. I hope my underwear is clean. What bra am I wearing? I mean if the coroner is looking at me, I want to be wearing the pretty bra."
I have waaaay too much space in my head.
Jenna - As usual, your madcap mind has me cracking up. But you are so right - a good bra is everything! Good to see you fill that space well.
You are very compassionate and brave enough to look. I keep my eyes straight ahead to avoid feeling pain for strangers. You are a stronger woman than I.
I'm a people watcher too, and I always sneak glances. I give the other passengers names for kicks too.
Unfortunately being a SAHM my commute does not afford much opportunity for doing so.
Anomie: Sometimes I don't know if it's compassion or compulsion, but thanks for your generosity.
Sar: Names huh? Did I ever tell you that you strike me as very personable?
Actonbell: Truth is many of us have careers that are really "jobs". We all punch some sort of clock. I recall your writing about Satinlady and those posts from your job are good stuff.
Loved this post Lady G! I can relate on so many levels. I think stories played an integral part of my childhood. I used to get lost in books and the world would pass me by and I was happy to spend my time with my friends, the characters, in my books. And that love of stories translated both as yet another escape (for on some levels that is what a love of stories and books are) and another enriching activity that came with people watching. Even now, I can sit still for hours on end and just watch people interact, sit, move do and myriad stories develop in my mind with many a twist and turn and... helps make that time fly by, you know?
Indeed you do you great storyteller you! (Yes, I am connected again! DAMN YOU SPANISH DSL! I AM BACK! BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!)
lol G! What an imagination :-) I think quite a few of us play this "story" game. I often wonder about the people crossing the streets at the lights. Why is that man dragging his feet, did he just break up? Why is that elderly woman out on her own, carrying those 2 big bags, why is no one helping her?? And whoa, look at that mascara-smudged woman! Did she just come from a lover's place, is that it?!
And then the light turns green, and I turn the radio up. Just like you say :-)
Personable, huh, G thanks! Nono, make that that thanks G! :)
MizB: Your gift for the story is evident even in your commenting. I too was a big fan of the local library.
GG: FIDO - forget about it and drive on. Though sometimes it takes a little doing to shake the rearview imagery.
Sar: Well heeled as always :)
It's funny how over time certain images become iconic to the daily commute...landmarks that help mark your location and time. One of the things I look forward to each morning is the sight of a dog, lab or retriever?, trotting in front of his/her human always carrying an enormous peice of driftwood. Dog and human always seem to be enjoying their walk. It brings a smile to my usually tightly clinched face almost every day.
Locally for me - it's "The Ladder Guy". He walks so briskly through the streets as he carries a 15 foot ladder. I see him all around the neighborhood. Always with the damn ladder (for all I know, he's robbing homes).
I smell a snark thread here.
One of my best friends, when visiting, once leaned over, peered in my ear and went "How much?"
"Are you charging? It says room for rent."
So...yes, lots of space. Anyone need a racquetball court?
Ooh glad you didn't mininterpret - thought you might misundertand the space comment to be tied to the bra and that might be a bigger insult (no pun intended) although neither was truly meant as an insult, ahh foget it. No thank you I don't need a a racquetball court.
Oh, don't get me wrong, G, I fill the bra well too.
Have a great weekend GQ.
I make up stories about the other people I see while commuting. When I took the trains for ten years, I did it with those commuters. Apparently no one is safe from this when I am around.
But they rarely make me nervous. Maybe because I do my work in neighborhoods with gang activity. I save my nervousness for that...and for that tantalizing moment each day when I come to the parking lot and hope my car is still there in one piece.
Jenna: I am sure all of your cups runneth over.
Brian: Hope you had a good weekend :)
Mutha: It's not fear but rather the look of recognition that makes me nervous for a fleeting moment.
that's funny, i could have sworn i left you another comment. did i not come back here with some clever quippeth over the weekend? to ask, perchance:
"How now, wool-sack, what mutter you?" (Henry IV, part I)
no, come to think of it, i would never call you a wool-sack. not in the summer.
just thought i'd pop over to say "hi" & tell ya i hope you had a lovely weekend! i'm guessin' you're gearing up for another drive down the LIE of Love tomorrow, along with the rest of the workaday schlubs... perhaps our paths will cross, perhaps they won't cross, perhaps they'd *better* cross, if a certain NBFF knows what's good for her! (just sayin'...) xoxo
I've long since come to understand that our pasts are as mysterious as our futures.
For instance, I thought I left this comment last week.
Doug and Neva ~ We have all been here before, we have all been here before...
Perhaps a cotton sack Neva.
Funny that is, Doug, but so true.
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