One of the places I find a sense of peace is behind the wheel. Something about the hum of the tires and moving through space and time. It’s always been a place to talk with the boys. Eyes peering out through the windshield, strapped into our time machine—a balance of stillness and motion. Sometimes it’s the surroundings that capture us, the beauty of nature. Other times it’s the constant change of suburban sprawl or urban cityscapes. Something about boys and movement.
Many things differ since I pulled away for the first time in a boat known as a ’71 Chevy Impala. Cars are different and drivers are different. Technology crowds the cabin space and sometimes I will hit a button accidentally (one whose function escapes me), and get knocked out of flow by a strange voice talking to me about things that are not set up in my current vehicle. She sounds strangely annoyed as if I did it purposefully. Or maybe she knows I haven’t read the user manual and only use 10% of the car’s technology (An aside: When I bought the car the salesman smiled and said the technology was more complex than the Stealth Bomber. Why he smiled and handed me the keys still escapes me). Either way, I don’t know how to turn her off so I listen… and wait. Admittedly there are times when my co-pilot waits in silence for me to take action and the “standoff” usually ends with me pulling over and powering down.
Changing lanes is also different in these times. Turn signals are optional. I think because technology hasn’t figured a way to mount a mobile phone on the signal arm. Maybe someday. In the meantime, one has to keep one hand free for a selfie. Speaking of, this is a never-ending source of amusement during rush hour. Sometimes I will try to pick a radio station to match the action beside me or in front of me. The other day, best one yet, a young lady struggled with her cell phone and her steaming hot Hardee’s “Thickburger.” I had a country station on but switched to classic rock since I was sure something was about to roll. Her thinking skills were taxed as she tried to eat, drive, steer clear of the juices, and manage her phone. At the stoplight, she seized the opportunity. A candid of an unbitten burger. A selfie for the gang, and, of course, the inevitable honk of the car behind her.
A car is just a car, something my oldest uncannily repeated the other day. But like anything, it is the space inside that speaks of its value. I’m a long way down the road from the Impala. But the feeling, the pure sense of freedom feels as sweet as it did the first time I saw my parents in the rearview mirror. I never knew why they stood there and took it all in until I watched my own sons pull away. Freedom comes with a responsibility…
While the term “Sunday driver” lost its true meaning a while back, I occasionally honor its place in history. The only record of the event will be the one in my head. I just hope I don’t hit the wrong button.