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Sunday, January 7, 2007

On Driving

Driving has become the new default activity for Mark and I, ever since his purchase of Clive, a deep blue Mini Cooper S, just before Thanksgiving last year. Before the car, when we didn’t have plans for the weekend, we’d make the journey on foot from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to its hipper sister, Williamsburg. We’d go to my favorite antiques store, where I wouldn’t buy anything, and then to his favorite record store, where he would. We’d grab a few plump bagels, plastic containers of egg and chicken salad, and make the journey back, where we’d eat our picnic lunch hunched over the coffee table. The routine gave us a sense of purpose – you go, you buy lunch, you come back, you eat lunch. One had to have lunch, after all.

This is what I’ve learned in the short time that ‘we’ have had the car: Driving is a great way to pass time and feel productive, but it is not too far from another of our pastimes, sitting on the couch in front of the large screen tv. In both scenarios, one sits in comfort beside a companion, with easy access to food and water. One sees new places. One is entertained.

Ironically, after driving for a while, or actually, after being driven, I feel much the same as after sitting on the couch in front of the tv: I want to get up and walk around. I want air. I want to experience the world rather than watch it go by.

But then, once I pass a certain threshold, I am officially Beyond Hope. I no longer want to get up and walk around. I want to surrender to the black faux leather or the soft, nubby green fabric. I want to sleep. I usually do. I want to never get up again.

What most people don’t realize is that driving, as an experience, depends very much on which seat you occupy. To the passenger, the trip is not nearly as entertaining as it could be. You’re not so concerned about the guy in front of you or the guy in back of you, how bad the roads are, how bad the other drivers are, or how we’re doing on gas. Thoughts, instead, revolve around one’s bladder and the next rest stop or, as designated navigator, simply not getting lost.

It’s only been the first few months, and I’m sure this new world of the road will unfold and expand in unexpected ways. As driver and passenger, Mark and I will discover new things, each from our different vantage points. Perhaps I’ll learn stick shift and the roles will be uncomfortably reversed. Perhaps I’ll arrive at a new mindset, making the passenger seat more engaged. Until I figure it all out, I’ll just buckle myself in, and try to enjoy the ride.

Photo by Rob Lightbody.