by D. C. Haddock
Days that I drive myself to school never seem to lack their fair share of piquancy and quirk. Besides the fact that everyone seemed to be under the impression that they were the only people on the road (isn’t that always how it is?) in the midst of me wiggling in my seat to Mony, Mony, I decided to take a break from my jam session to sip a bit of that sweet, caffeinated life-nectar otherwise know to all of us as coffee; and as I tipped the cup towards me, a waterfall fell down the front of my sweater and onto my thighs. I kid you not, there was a puddle of latte in my lap. In that moment I became that schmuck you see in movies on his way to work, yakking away on his cell phone, fiddling with the radio, checking his teeth in the rearview mirror, when all of a sudden as he’s attempting to daintily sip his coffee, a flood of blisteringly hot java finds its way onto his shirt and into his lap and he veers off the road in shock and lands in a ditch. Well, thankfully, that didn’t happen to me; in fact, I don’t even really know what kind of significance spilling coffee on myself had. You know you’re really reaching as a writer when the most interesting thing you have to talk about is a little espresso between your thighs.
Of course, when you’re alone in a car, there are so many weird things to notice. Like the random McDonald’s cup sitting on the side of the road and wondering how it got there. And I’m not saying it’s sitting on some shoulder somewhere on 50; I’m saying I saw it sitting right along an exit, in a place where no one could stop and safely exit their vehicle at any time of day to gently place a McDonald’s cup so anyone who drove by could see it and wonder how it got there. One couldn’t even come to a slow roll and place it there without getting rear-ended. I mean, why? How?! Shouldn’t it have blown onto its side by now? Did someone knowingly stick rocks in there to weigh it down or something? People are so strange. And I’m even stranger for gawking about someone who appears to be the perfect combination of magician and litterer.
There are also the things you are forced to notice. Most days I carpool with my mother, which always ends up as either a weird amalgamation of hilariously awkward conversation, a two-woman sing along show, or an extra hour of sleep for me. But when it’s just me and my lonesome, I see things like crushed and mangled guardrails, skid-marks on the pavement twenty feet long that are black as ink, massive bucks laying dead by the side of the road; and you can’t help but wonder how that happened. Was someone hurt? Have they passed? Did they leave behind families somewhere, still grieving for someone they loved, another soul claimed by the deadly highway? Whenever I come across these sites, I always feel as if I should avert my eyes so as not to pry into what was possibly someone’s most terrifying moment in their life thus far; it’s as if I’m looking at someone’s grave. It’s akin to the feeling you get when you visit the Tower of London, and you are shown by the guide to Tower Hill. “Here is where Anne Boleyn was beheaded,” they say so casually, and you are overcome with that familiar melancholy, because although you were not acquainted with each other, your conscience recognizes the loss of human life. Maybe it is an overreaction to feel such things. Maybe I have silly little woman feelings and a silly little bleeding heart. But ultimately, it will never matter how fast you go down that highway; we’ll all end up rolling to a halt at the same stop light, eventually.