Sunday, December 27, 2009

D is for Driving

This Christmas season, I’m starting to feel like all I do is drive from one place to another. My dreams are cluttered with cold road. Oh, the road. A smorgasbord of all of us: The hurried, the belligerent, the distracted, the driven (no pun intended), the lost, and the cops. We all use the same black paths to get from here to there. Some of us are adequate drivers, and some of us can’t even spell adequate. (Whoops, thank you spell check)

Ever notice that one guy? You know, that guy who turns into your lane, right in front of you? Right when he is already in your lane, having just—as the kids would say it—cut you off, he does this . . . he turns on his blinker. After he already turned! Are you kidding me!? I often wonder: Does this guy only do this on the road? Or does he walk into his friend’s houses uninvited, then pull his phone out of his pocket, give his hosts a call and say, “Hey, I’m coming over”? Um, thanks for the heads up, buddy.

I’m not a perfect driver. I don’t do what the buffoon in the previous paragraph does, but I’m not perfect. I, just like you, am a bit of a hypocrite on the road. I’m always quick to hold transportative judgment, unless I am the one in need of some mercy. “Come on man, I’m in a hurry.” I can be in the best mood possible, ready to give the shirt off my back to a perfect stranger, but if you drive in a way contrary to my expectations, I will use that shirt to whip you locker-room-style in the face. Why?

Speaking of locker rooms, when you strip everything down, we’re all just trying to get somewhere (Wow, brilliant thought, right?). But in all seriousness, most of us aren’t on the road because we love commuting. It’s a necessary evil. With that in mind, I really wish we all showed just a smidgen more compassion, and a whole serving more of safety on the road. Anyone who has lost loved ones to auto accidents knows that every time we step behind the wheel we’re putting our lives in the hands of machinery, hand-eye coordination, and a bunch of strangers. It’s a terrifying thought.

When my daughter was born, I’ll never forget the ride home from the hospital. Due to the circumstances, we had a 45 minute drive home. Well, it would have been 45 minutes if I wasn’t driving 10 MPH below the speed limit (at least) the whole way. I knew there were far too many drivers on the road like me. A couple days before that, I held my daughter for the first time, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Don’t drop her, you idiot.” She was so fragile! Just like that she was born. And I was terrified that, just like that, she’d be gone again.

I take the same route home from work every day. Included in the drive, I pass the Larkin Cemetery. Residing in that cemetery I have three cousins, two of which passed away in a car crash in 1988. They were hit by a negligent driver and careened off the road. I was five when they were killed, but I will never forget that day. Sadly, I don’t actually remember my cousins, but I remember that day. From time to time I take a quick detour to say hello to my cousin’s gravesites.

It’s amazing how connected I feel to my cousins every time I visit their resting place. Like I said, I don’t actually remember them, but I feel that connection. That connection is admittedly amplified by our blood relation, but I really don’t think it’s too different from the feelings I would have for any other casualties of the road . . . assuming I know them. All it takes is a name and a face (of the victim and their loved ones). You’re not going to believe this, but every person you see on the road has both a name and a face. Well, at least I’m assuming they do . . .

I’m writing this blog on Christmas day. As I often do this time of year, I am thinking about my family right now. Family is a pretty loose term. For me, growing up it meant the six people who lived in my house and made me tuck in my shirt for our family photo. Since then, the number of people in those photos has grown (and I don’t have to tuck in my shirt anymore . . . but I digress). The number of my family exponentially grows more whenever I do my best to pay attention to what seems to be a pervasive Christmas message: All people are a part of the human family. All people deserve compassion.

I submit that the best place to give compassion on a consistent basis is at home. The second best place is on the road; road is the great connector from one home to another. If you’re reading this and still have a long drive ahead of you this holiday season, please drive safe. Practice some compassion on the road, think of your family, and for heaven’s sake, turn your blinker on before you turn.

Happy Christmas! I would have said all this earlier, but I was typing 10 MPH slower than usual. Just to be safe.


Today's recommendation: If you like Jack Johnson, check out his new live concert film "Jack Johnson: En Concert." It was directed by Emmett Malloy, and I love his style. There is also a CD of the same title. Trust me, if a lot more people listened to JJ, there'd be a lot less road rage. Plus, all profits from both the DVD and the CD (not to mention the tour the music came from) are being donated to charities who support the environment, art, and music education. Now that's the Christmas spirit!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This has been my favorite post yet. I know you're told this a lot, Bryson, but you're such an amazing writer. You have such a talent for sharing something important, while entertaining your reader at the same time. Can't wait to read the next one... Love you.

  3. You feel safe when I'm driving, right?