My Faithful Companion

7 12 2009

My new gig has been enjoyable thus far, but also very absorbing of my creative energies (as the gap in blog entries shows), and it has taken a bit of settling to adjust to its rhythms. Additionally, the job requires that I write a column on a topic of my choosing once a week, hence some of the ideas and energy that would have gone here goes there instead. Hopefully, I’ll soon be updating this thing on more of a regular basis, but to make up for it I’ve posted below one of the end results of my newspaper efforts.

From the Nov. 4 edition of The Kentucky Standard

“Over the course of human history, great thinkers have struggled to create a situation in which the teeming masses of humanity can be split down the middle with a simple yes/no categorization. To the annals of such oversimplifications, I now add my own: there are two kinds of people in this world, those who like to drive and those who don’t.

My mother, for example, treats long drives as if the car, the weather, other drivers, and even the road itself are conspiring to end her trip prematurely. Her posture is rigid, her hands are clenched, her gaze is steely and she derives absolutely no enjoyment whatsoever from freeways.

In fact, as a kid her noticeable stress in any vehicular situation gave me a chance to hear some of my first-ever expletives.

This is the opposite of myself who has always enjoyed long, meandering road trips. Highways are opportunities to listen to albums in their entirety and let my thoughts roll along like the car’s wheels on the pavement.

Of course, I can still find driving a hassle and a source of stress if I am lost or late or stuck in traffic. However, I’ve always had a romantic view of the experience on the whole, giving me an attachment to road trips in general and to my car in particular.

During my collegiate years especially, my ’99 silver Grand Am formed the backbone of many experiences good, bad and multiple shades in-between.

I, along with a few friends, once made a spring break trip of 3,152 miles in a little more than five days, entertained by music and (I say this with no sarcasm) an unabridged book-on-CD of “Moby Dick.”

My part-time job as a delivery driver throughout high school and university also meant I spent a significant amount of time on four wheels. The frequent stops, starts and suddenly executed u-turns the career entailed wore down my long-suffering auto even further.

After graduation, I found myself with a job in one town, a girlfriend in another and my friends scattered throughout several more. I spent many weekends driving up, down and across the interstates of the central Midwest and further developed my already undying love for NPR and community radio stations.

Now owner, driver and occasionally reckless operator of my Grand Am since 2003, I have clocked more than 100,000 miles on the vehicle and it has reached a point where the only thing preventing it from falling apart are my repeated pleas for it not to.

It’s been trashed by a deer and dented by a drunk; driven through deep snow and stuck in thick mud; taken for 12-hour trips and stolen for one day. Vandals broke the rear windshield, countless spilled sodas ruined the passenger seat and repeated use made the knobs for volume control and airflow fall off. Those last two I now have to adjust with a pair of pliers.

Yet, despite the scarred exterior and decayed interior, I find myself reluctant to part with it.

Some of this is due to the fact that I’m not really in the financial situation to purchase a vehicle in better shape than my present one. Some of it is … actually, that’s probably the main reason, a good 90 percent really.

However, I also think there’s a sliver of me that refuses to let the old heap die, even though it’s clearly longing for junkyard retirement. My nostalgia and affection for it seem only to increase as it becomes more defunct. It’s my share of the stubborn streak that runs through humanity like a scratch on a CD. I’m stuck on a few words when I need to be hearing the rest of the song.

Speaking of CDs and the playing thereof, that’s another device in my car that frequently malfunctions.

There’s a reason to hold on to the past, but there is also a reason to let it go. In my case, it’s nice to have a car packed with memories (even if it’s missing parts), but that won’t keep me moving when the engine finally breaks down.”

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2 responses

7 12 2009
Jason Farrell

I wonder if your hesitancy to part with your vehicle really draws you into the “likes driving” category. It seems that you have extensive experience with driving, and that it has been a source of good memories, but does that make you one who enjoys, on a daily basis, the process of entering your vehicle and traveling from place to place. I, for one, love to drive. My car, and I’ve gone through 4 now, is my little sanctuary. It the place where I can be me, escape from the world, and venture into my own crazy thoughts, if only for 5 minutes. I light my cigarette, turn up the radio, and I am free. Does this ring home for you as well?

Parting with the past and the vehicle that represents those memories is a step in the process of growing up, and growing older. It is your grip on accepting this fate that is the driving force here, not your willful desire to be behind the wheel of your car. Not to undermine your problem. It is a toughie. Will you miss driving your car, or will you miss the times that have previously driven it? This is the heart of the matter.

8 12 2009
Jim Gibbons

Frank,
Great read! I was trying to think of a more clever way to say that I enjoyed it. I did not come up with one. So, here’s a good old-fashioned “Well done!”

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