Monday, July 07, 2008

how I drive

I'm a macabre guy; I drive along I-95 wondering how I could die. What fellow citizen will fail to see me in the blind spot? Which guardrail might play the catcher's mitt to my rented Pontiac? What piece of this car might stick, slip, snap, skip, or fall off? Would the traffic report include my name while explaining the thirty minute to one hour delays? Should I consider alternate routes?

I've come to wonder about how I came to drive with the Grim Reaper riding shotgun. The only other time I recall this particular terror was in Taiwan, where I fled buses. They hurdled in at us (we who had been waiting in the monsoon for a ride to some other, less aromatic, corner of town) and we scattered and tumbled like dice on the pavement to avoid the homicidal drivers, the reckless manslaughterers who thrilled at our kinesthetic fear. Then the bus stopped, and we boarded, happier to be part of the irresistible force of the vehicle rather than splattered onto some immovable object. That terror was mostly rational. But I assess the likelihood of my brakes failing here, twenty miles from the rental counter, as alert level orange, even though my ribs are telling me: "RED, RED, RED -- Close the borders!"

I also remember fearlessness -- crossing the highway at Wachapreague (a hamlet on the Eastern Shore) in pursuit of a shade of green I had never seen before. I remember diving into Nice traffic, thinking that if I died, it would be against a backdrop of Chagall, sardines, olive oil, and lavender. There are people I love for whom I would spare no organ or injury.

My conclusion: beauty is that which makes me willing to die. Ugliness is that which makes me fear death. Black asphalt brings me closer to death, and so when I drive, I drive scared.