Sunday, June 26, 2005

Three Hours Between Chatham and Toronto

About a year ago, I was driving home by myself from my parents' place to my apartment, and I narrated the whole trip to myself in my head. And then, for some bizarre reason, I went home and wrote it down.

Then this weekend my wife and I went on a drive home for a family reunion, and I remembered it. It has absolutely no importance to anyone, but then again, neither does this blog, so I guess this is the appropriate place for it...

So, without further adieu, here it is.

The long weekend is over, and it’s time to head back to Toronto. I’ve been visiting my family for a few days, but now I have to make the three hour drive back to the apartment, so I can start the new work week.

It’s about 8:30 at night. The rain is hitting the windshield so hard that I can barely see; at times the lines on the road disappear from view, and it’s only sheer instinct that keeps me inside my lane. Who knows, maybe at times I’m not in my lane – but I haven’t ended up in a ditch, yet, so at least I know that I’m on the road. The windshield wipers don’t seem to be doing any good, and I’m tempted to just turn them off, but I’ve read my Douglas Adams, and I know that that wouldn’t be a good idea.

I have the soundtrack from Snatch on the CD player. A great soundtrack for a great movie, but I wish I had some more CD’s in the car, because I know that before three hours is up I’ll be tired of this one. What I’d really love to have in the car is some AC/DC, since I just finished watching a lousy movie that happened to end on some AC/DC music, and I have it running in my head. But I don’t even own any CD’s by the group, and there sure aren’t any in the car. It doesn’t matter. I have the music blaring, as is my wont, but I’m not really listening to it. I just catch a line or two here or there, which intrude on, and colour, my thoughts. Occasionally I attempt to sing along, although I don’t know most of the words to any of the songs.


Just knock… three times… and whisper low
That you… and I… were sent by Joe
Then strike… a match… and you will know
You’re in… Hernando’s Hide… a… way.

The way the rain is blatting against the windshield, it almost seems like snow. However, it’s April, so I choose to believe that it’s just rain.

I normally love to drive. Get out on the open highway, let the music roar, maybe sing along, and let my thoughts wander – what could be better than that? I don’t even mind driving in the dark, especially when I’m on the highway. There isn’t much to see anyway, except the white line on one side and the white dotted line on the other, and it’s not any harder to see those in the dark. Nor do I mind driving in the rain. But driving in the dark and in the rain? Well, that’s enough to keep my nerves on edge for the whole ride. So I know that by the time I get to Toronto, my right arm (my “driving arm”) is going to be sore, from gripping the steering wheel too hard.

I’m tempted to use the idea of being alone on a dark highway, in the rain, heading toward an empty apartment, as a metaphor for my life. However, considering how good my life is, that would be unnecessarily morose. I’m just a guy who happens to be by himself, on the dark highway, in what happens to be a whole heck of a lot of rain. Despite those facts, life is pretty good, and the fact is that I’m warm and comfortable, despite the rain.

In a strange way, I’d almost like to see a hitchhiker I could pick up, just to keep me company. Of course, chances are that if I did see a hitchhiker, I wouldn’t pick him or her up anyway. It’s not smart in this day and age (if it ever was). And it’s just as well; I’m not exactly Mr. Smalltalk, so even if I did pick someone up, they’d be in for a couple of hours of uncomfortable silence. (Maybe they’d like the soundtrack from Snatch, and the drive wouldn’t be so bad. They could even help me figure out the words to Dreadlock Holiday.)

I’m just outside of London, now, and what I’ve mostly been thinking about for the last fifty kilometres or so is both halves of the cup of coffee I drank earlier. One of those halves is currently in my bladder, and my bladder isn’t too happy about that fact – it wants the coffee out of there. Frankly, with my bladder complaining so loudly, I want the coffee out of there too. That fact alone is enough to keep that cup of coffee first and foremost in my thoughts.

The other half of that cup of coffee is spilled down my front. I can feel the stickiness on my hands and the bottom half of my face, as well as the wet spot on my jeans, where most of it went. I’m a bit clumsy, sometimes, when I’m drinking in the car. Well, let’s face it: I’m a bit clumsy all of the time, driving or not.

But all in all, the drive has been pretty good so far. There isn’t much traffic, and the traffic that I do see is being predictable. I still have to get all the way through London before I’ll get to a rest station, so that I can get rid of the coffee that’s in my bladder and on my hands and face, but that shouldn’t take too long.

I attempt to pass a truck, and the driver turns on a blindingly bright light, which points back toward me, and illuminates the driver-side of the truck, where I’m attempting to pass. It’s as if the driver were flashing the bright lights at me, but I just can’t tell what s/he is trying to tell me. Go ahead and pass? Wait a second, because I need to get in that lane? I decide not to take any chances, and I don’t pass the truck. I even flash my brights once, to let the driver know that I’m not going to pass, and the truck can get in the fast lane if desired. Since the truck does, I figure I’ve cracked the “bright light” code, and I wait until the truck has finished passing some other vehicle, and gotten back into the right lane, before I continue on my way.

I’m now left to my thoughts again. At one point, my fears come true, and all of the lines on the road really do disappear. There is an unnerving couple of minutes (yes, I said minutes) where I can’t see the road at all, and only know that I’m still on it because I haven’t felt the shoulder. Whoops, scratch that, I feel the shoulder for a second or two, but I manage to get myself back on the road. Luckily, the rain lets up just in time, and I can see the lines again, just as a group of traffic catches up to me. I’m able to stay in my own lane, so as to avoid an accident, while they pass me. I should be fine, anyway, for a while, because I’m in London now, and there are streetlights along the highway; that will help with visibility.

Finally, I make it to a rest stop. As I’m easing onto the off-ramp, I realize that my foot has been in the same position on the gas pedal for a long time, because it’s cramped, and pretty stiff when I go to press the brake. As a result, the car jerks a couple of times as I’m slowing down, because I’m pressing the brake too hard. I would normally use the cruise-control, for a long drive like this, but with this rain, I’d prefer not to, since I’ll need to keep slowing down and speeding up, as the weather requires.

It would be great if the variety store at this rest stop is selling CD’s, so I can maybe pick something else up to listen to, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

Strangely enough, I don’t feel my bladder thanking me, once I’ve emptied it. It’s less uncomfortable, sure, but there isn’t an immediate feeling of relief. That must mean I left it too long before relieving myself. At any rate, it doesn’t hurt anymore. Also, it feels good to be able to wash my hands and face – even if this is one of those frigging sinks that won’t stay on unless you hold down the knob, meaning that you can only rinse one hand at a time.

The variety store isn’t even open. Doesn’t matter; I’m sure they wouldn’t have had any CD’s anyway, let alone a CD I’d be willing to buy.

Unfortunately, when I get back to my car, I notice the gathering white flakes on the side, and I’m forced to admit that it really is snow that’s falling, and not just rain. In April. This has really been one of those winters. Oh well.

I’m back on the open road, but it isn’t as open as it was before. There’s more traffic, now, and some of the cars are acting strangely.

At one point, there are two cars coming up fast behind me. That’s no problem, because I’m in the slow lane, and they’re more than welcome to pass me. But only one of them does; the other one stays behind me. And then decides to pass me, and I mean pass me fast. It speeds up to get by me – but then quickly slows down, so that it is just staying even with me, in the fast lane. And then, to confuse me even more, slows down again, and falls back in behind me. At this point I’m very confused, but I figure as long as the car stays behind me, and not in front of me, I’m less likely to get killed by the other driver’s erratic behaviour. (And I may be right: I don’t get killed on this particular drive home.) I speed up just a tiny bit, and slowly leave the car behind. It’s even more of a mystery why the driver doesn’t maintain speed with me, and keep following me, but at this point, it becomes academic, rather than being life and death, as it was with the erratic driving I had been witnessing earlier.

To pass the time, I’m narrating the entire drive to myself in my head, as if I were a character in a novel. (I’m particularly pleased with the passage I came up with earlier in the drive, regarding the “two halves of coffee”. For some reason, it tickles my fancy, and I spend a bit of time on good wording for it.) This type of thinking isn’t uncommon for me. In the past, I’ve spent entire drives making up music videos in my head, to accompany the music I have on the stereo. Actually, “videos” probably isn’t the right word. What I outline in my head is more like silent feature films, with the music as a soundtrack. I feel that if I could get a quality video camera, I could have a great outlet for my creative juices. However, I haven’t yet created any of my imagined films. Frankly, outside of a college cinema class, I don’t know that they would have much of an audience anyway, so it’s not like the world is mourning the loss of my art.

At another point, I attempt to pass another truck, and the driver flashes another of those strange rear-facing lights at me. (Is it the same truck? Maybe it passed me by as I was in the rest station…) I really can’t figure out what the driver is trying to tell me, this time. I try flashing my brights back, but the truck doesn’t take my lane. I finally just drive on by the truck, and hope that it doesn’t suddenly come into my lane, and crush me. (It doesn’t.) Strangely enough, another truck does something similar later on. Maybe this is some new technology in truck lighting systems, that all of the drivers are eager to try out, at the expense of confusing some poor guy from Toronto, trying to make it home.

I spend the next little while of my drive thinking about bright lights, and the various meanings that there can be when a driver flashes their brights at an oncoming car. It’s a little silly to spend so long thinking about this, especially since I can only think of two reasons to flash your brights (those reasons being “hey, you’ve got your brights on, please turn them off” and “hey, there’s a cop up ahead”), but I can’t really control my thoughts that well when I have so much time to myself, so I spend a couple of minutes thinking about it anyway.

The drive continues like this until I get to Mississauga. By this time, the traffic has gotten a lot busier, as it always does heading into the city after the weekend, but we’re still moving along nicely. I’m doing a bit over the speed limit, and almost pass a cop, but for once in my life I actually see the cop while there’s still a chance to do something about it, so by the time I pull even with the cruiser I’m down to the speed limit. The cop is stuck in the slow lane, behind someone who isn’t doing the speed limit (probably because they’re afraid to go too fast, with a cop on their tail), and I’ve left the cruiser behind fairly quickly.

Once I get back onto the city streets, and off the highway, I’m able to turn my windshield wipers down to a slower setting, and they start squeaking. I really need to change the passenger-side one; I have the new blade in the trunk, I just haven’t bothered to do it yet.



And finally, I get home to my apartment. For some reason it looks emptier than usual, but it’s exactly how it was when I left it. There aren’t any new messages on the machine, because I had already checked my messages before I got home. (There is, however a whole load of spam waiting for me in my email Inbox, but that’s hardly a great homecoming.)

I can’t figure out why I feel so disconcerted.
I’ve gotten home just in time to watch one of my favourite shows, which is just starting, and I do. I then watch one of the shows that I recorded while I was gone for the weekend. That’s about it, and it’s time to call it a night. I’ve had a long drive, and I could use the sleep.



Unfortunately, I can’t sleep. I’m just tossing and turning. So, instead of lying in bed, I decide to go and type up my thoughts from the car ride. By the time I’ve finished, I still haven’t figured out why I bothered.

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