(A piece I wrote in 2006 about driving daily covering long distances in Florida. I think it’s more about the perils of thinking too much.)
It is a scary thought to realize how much of our lives in the United States are spent driving from point A to point B, up until we have exhausted the alphabet and have come full circle to point It Just Does not Matter Anymore.
This is the point, where habit takes over, morphs into a serene and uncomfortable feeling of being one with a machine. This is the point where we must slap ourselves to realize that for 3-4 hours a day and for thousands of hours a year we are completely bereft of human contact. So some of us seek solace in the talking nonsensically on the phone, in the hope that the person on the other end is just as available as we are, and as desperate to continue entertaining otherwise silent moments. Others turn the music up. The louder the sound, the more muted our thoughts become.
Some of us lucky ones are comfortable in the silence, but how many of these content souls are there?
To be in the company of absolute silence cut by the occasional sound of brakes or the wind, is a feeling that very few can endure. It is for these people that a car ride with absolute silence is as good as a prison sentence where the punishment is solitary confinement. Where they are forced to face the thoughts they have the benefit of ignoring all day. Where worries come back ten-fold and all you can do is ponder, become restless as your mind explores new dimensions of panic and loneliness.
If you ever look around you, peoples in cars might even strike you as eerie. Something about the listlessness of their eyes and the emptiness of their stares reminds you of a horror film you would rather forget. You begin to wonder whether you might be painting the same picture to another onlooker. You see children smiling through thick glass at you, almost as if looking to the heavens out of their metallic cages. You see dogs struggling to stick their necks out and feel the air, because for animals all too familiar with captivity, the lowered window provides a small but interesting doorway to freedom. You see people driving with all their windows down, smiling as their hair obstructs their vision but the breeze gives them freedom.
In this country, home is always too far away from the place we need to go, and a trip to the grocery store could take a substantial amount of day. How could loneliness not exist when the number of miles between us and the destination just keep increasing, and the quality and quantity of human contact is diminished in our struggle to survive?