Friday, October 7, 2011


I've never liked being in the car. When I was a kid, it was a kind of torture to go visit my mom's relatives, because they all lived about two hundred miles away in North Carolina, which meant four hours in a car. Even when my parents broke the trip up for us by stopping halfway for a meal, I hated it. Friends would tell me about family trips where they were in the car for whole days at a time, and all I could do was marvel at the imagined torture of it.

It got a little better when I got old enough to drive, but I still don't much care for it. My friend Karen drives down to this area from New York at least twice a year, and I can't even comprehend being willing to do that. Any trip that's going to take more than four hours to drive, I want to know what my flight options are. I waffled on taking my first real job because the commute was going to be more than half an hour.

That one has come back to haunt me, because now every morning, I'm in the car for the better part of an hour, driving Alex up to daycare and then driving Penny back down to her school before I go to work. It's not my favorite part of the day, but I've mostly made my peace with it. The kids have learned that I'm not terribly communicative when I'm driving, and they largely talk to each other, and Penny brings a book to read after we've dropped Alex off. Once I'm alone in the car, I switch the radio from music to comedy.

So I cope.

And yet, a few times a year, I see something that makes it worth it. A couple of years back, I saw fog lifting from a freshly-plowed field; the mist hung thick and swirly in the air at a level four feet off the ground, the early sunlight making it sparkle. I'd never seen anything quite like it before, and I've never seen it since.

This morning, there was a thick fog hanging over the swamp -- and only over the swamp, glued there like cotton balls. As I was coming back that way after taking Alex to daycare, I was approaching the bridge down a slight incline, and the fog was still there, tall enough to swallow the trees and everything else on the far side of the bridge. For just a brief moment, it looked like I was about to drive off the end of the world and into oblivion.

As I reached the bridge and my visibility extended, the illusion expanded, and it seemed that the rest of the world was being created at that moment, simply because I was ready to pass through the barrier. (At the time, it was a profound and almost spiritual image. Only now, as I try to put it in words, do I realize that it sounds like crossing zones in a video game. Blame my inadequate wordsmithing, and not the experience itself.)

I wondered, as I pushed through the fog, what would happen if it was a barrier -- or a portal. Would I find myself lost in a featureless grey space? Pass through into a world that, in fact, hadn't existed in the moments before I entered it? Would I disappear entirely from this world, or would another me from another world enter at the same moment I left and take up my life where I left off?

Maybe I am in another world now. Maybe I drove through that portal and am now in a new world, taking the place of the me that was here yesterday. Maybe I'll say something to someone later that's not quite right, and the person I'm talking to will pause for a moment and give me an odd look, and wonder what's happened to me.

How about it, blog readers? Am I a traveler in an alternate dimension (or from your perspective, a traveler from an alternate dimension?) I must say, though -- if that's the case, alternate-world me doesn't do a very good job at keeping up with her paperwork.


Karen said...

I've loved being in the car since I was a baby; apparently I found the engine sound/feel to be soothing. Whenever I was cranky or sleepless, Mom would strap me into the bank and go for a drive (usually to get gas, since in those days that involved a lot of waiting about and idling).

As far as *long* drives, I was inured to those from a pretty early age, too-- the campground's a four-hour drive, and during the off-season that's a round trip we'd make about every other week. My biggest worry, on learning to drive, was that I'd have a hard time staying awake, because I'm so used to being lulled to sleep by the car. (The radio, caffeine, cold air, regular breaks, and crunchy snacks take care of that.)

What's most tiring is dealing with the other traffic, which is why I tend to prefer evening drives... but no, you definitely don't have to worry about me being tortured by being in the car. ;)

Liz said...

I think part of the reason I don't like being in a car is because I had pretty bad motion sickness as a kid. Most of those drives to visit my mom's family involved at least one stop on the side of the road so I could throw up. When I was big enough, Dramamine made it (barely) tolerable, and it doesn't affect me at all if I'm in the front seat, but I guess that anti-car mindset got cemented early on.

Heidi / D-Tales said...

When I was a kid, three or four times a year, we would trek to Toronto, a 400-mile, 8-hour drive from home. Oh, how I hated that drive! I think it scarred me for life! To this day, like you, I'm not a car person. We take road trips, and I love the destinations, but hate the drive.