I don’t commute anymore, since I work at home, but I did for a good long time. I was always a car commuter, hitting the roads with thousands of my fellow drivers every morning and evening.
It’s a funny thing. I always enjoyed my commute. Even stuck in traffic, I liked sitting in my own little world where the temperature was always right and the music was always good. And, every now and again, things happened that made for great dinner conversation. Even years later, there are a handful of commuting moments that hold a special place in my memories.
1. The Perfect Springsteen Moment
I was on the highway one afternoon, and I saw a large pink car ahead of me in the next lane. I am not much of a car person, I can’t identify the make and model of every car on the road, like some people I know. All I could positively say about this particular car was that it was made in the 1970s, a convertible and pink. Just as I formed the thought “I wonder if that is a pink Cadillac,” I got close enough to see the license plate, which read “YES IT IS.” It was perfect, and I smiled all the rest of the way home.
2. Valentine’s Day
One Valentine’s Day, I was stopped at a long red light next to a pick-up with a giant teddy bear in the passenger seat. I couldn’t tell if it was a large bear being held in someone’s lap, or a really large bear sitting in the seat by himself. Apparently I stared long enough, trying to answer this vitally important question, that the passengers in the truck noticed. I know this, because the giant teddy bear turned his head to look at me and waved. I could see a man’s hand waving the bear’s arm, so it was much less creepy than it sounds. At that point, there was really only one option; I laughed and waved back.
3. The Showstopper
This one is another red light memory. One bright summer evening, I drove home with my favorite soundtrack, Cabaret. I know every word to every song, and I sang them all. I reached the title track as I was exiting the highway, and I was really belting it out. I was singing full-voice and making grand gestures with my non-steering hand. If Randy Jackson had been in my back seat, he would have told me I was in it to win it. As I let the final note die down, I had to stop for a minute to catch my breath. I happened to look to my left (I was stopped at the red light at this point). The driver of the vehicle sitting next to me was my smartass shop foreman, and he was laughing his ass off at me. I experienced a split second of gut-clenching horror, and then I decided to let go and roll with it. I tipped my imaginary hat and waved.
Lest you think all my memories ended with laughter all around, I leave you with this:
4. The Bog of Eternal Stench
For two years, my daily commute took me past a water reclamation plant. That’s a fancy way of saying “sewage treatment.” I was introduced to a whole new world of horrible smells. The best part was that it smelled different every day, and because it was always a new smell, I was never prepared for it. Two or three times a week, I would have the same conversation in my head; “Good lord, what is that smell? Oh yeah, I’m passing the reclamation plant.” I have a whole subset of stench memories, like the time there was an accident up the road and I got stuck sitting next to the plant for half an hour, or the time I was convinced that the entire city must have had Chinese take-out the night before. Seriously, I can’t impress upon you enough how badly this place smelled. It’s the type of thing you try to explain to someone, and they think they understand, but the first time you take them by the place they still look around in horror and say “Holy crap, what is that?!?” It may not have been fun, but it certainly made an impression. :)
From what I’ve heard, public transportation offers much better stories than mine. If any of you have had some fun commuting adventures, please share them in the comments.