My commute is like my life. If plotted, you would see the graph of a long continuous flat line, sleep-inducing predictability, interrupted with an occasional off-the-chart spike from what seems like sure death. As soon as the spike settles, it’s back to that flat line.
Imagine yourself as a research engineer studying that plot. Select a portion of the flat line and zoom in. Zoom in again. If you look close enough, you’ll notice what appears to be activity between the extremes of boredom and terror. That’s where I live. It’s where we live. Mostly, We just feel the extremes, the routine we wish would change, and the change that we hope goes away soon.
Yesterday, I took an alternate route to work, just for new visual stimulation, something to break up the morning a bit. I was almost hit by a black Cadillac limousine as it pulled out of the Burger King drive thru exit lane.
The driver pulled out into traffic directly in front of me, as if oblivious. I hate anti-lock brakes, because the limo driver needed to hear the screech of tires behind him. I slowed, checked the lane to my left, and moved over.
I maneuvered my car until I was next to the limo when we stopped at the next red signal. I wanted him or her to know that if I had a magnetic Idiot flag, I would have tossed it onto the trunk, or maybe the hood.
Once we were side-by-side, I lowered my passenger window, ready to catch his glance and give him my really? face. My really? face is most effective when I integrate it with a somewhat subtle hands turned palms-up and raised eyebrows gesture. I practiced a few times to ensure maximum impact.
Unfortunately, all of the limousine’s windows were darkly tinted, so I had no idea if I had the driver’s attention or not. I performed my really? face and gesture several times at the dark glass, just to be sure.
The driver’s side tinted window came down and the driver threw out what was left of a cigarette. What part of him I saw was in traditional limo driver attire. He rested his forearm on the door frame and rubbed his finger tips, as if the numbness had returned. The driver’s extended his right arm. His right wrist rested on top of the steering wheel. His right sleeve was rolled up. An IV drip went from his arm to a clear bag hanging from the rear mirror.
Horns sounded from behind. The light was green. I gave my Okay! Okay! gesture to my rear view mirror and accelerated. The limo driver kept pace for a while. The IV bag swung from the limo’s rear view mirror like a pendulum of a tired clock. The limo driver turned on his right turn signal, changed lanes and pulled onto I20, and just like that, he was gone.
I am convinced that I will never see him again. I am also convinced that, for as long as I live, my next encounter with an IV or IV bag will be attached with my memory of him, and of the time that I was almost hit by a limo pulling out of Burger King drive thru.
Maybe, with time, the story will morph into a different fast food chain, or a parking lot of a vacant motel. Maybe time will change the car’s make, model and color or the interstate, or the state, but the IV bag will still swing from the rear mirror, and the needle will still be in his arm, stuck in the vein that runs between the boredom of what we choose to see in our lives, and the terror of a potential accident, because, that’s where we live. That’s where the blood runs.
Maybe somewhere there’s a driver telling his nurse about the day he saw a strange man gesturing repeatedly from the car next to him, one day in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, the one day he took a different route to pick up a client in his limo, that day he was on his last treatment, that day when the numbness returned.
Or maybe someday close to the end, I will slide out my own IV needle and shove it in the arm of some random visitor, just to jog his memory. I will remind him of the time he almost hit me. He will say ouch. I will grab the IV pole and make it sway, and the IV bag will swing like a pendulum. Then he will say oh yeah. I remember. And the last thing I will do is smile.