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.


Dawn Coyote said...

I'm not in the mood for shameful confessions, so I won't talk about my driving.

I participated in a Death and Impermanence workshop ("Death is certain; only the hour and manner of death are uncertain.") led by my brother's teacher some years ago.

At one point, she had us sit outside in the grass and meditate on our own eventual demise, and when I did that, it wasn't fear, but love that I felt - a ferocious attachment to the earth in all its blades and grains.

I don't know how that relates to your observations about driving, but I'm an inattentive driver, and often afraid.

On other topics: what I'm noticing about online/real life interaction is mostly to do with the way groups organize themselves into hierarchies, into opposition to perceived hierarchy, and the ways dominance is sought in both arenas.

It seems that regardless of the goals of the group, the internal dynamics will evolve to reflect common social structures of dominance and submission even when there is an explicit desire to avoid that outcome.

topazz said...


As far as the online thing; exactly. And I'm sick to death of it. (No pun intended)

august: I think driving essays could be a genre unto themselves, I love reading them.

august said...

Topazz, thanks. Transport in general seems to be a common theme in my writing -- don't know why.

Dawn -- I wrote a response, I think to noclaro (maybe Iso?) that involved meditation. Oh yeah, I think I said that I took meditation as the effort to remain focused, and that I can really only do that when physically spent. So yes, I think I see the connection.

Hierarchies. I guess I must just be clueless. My sense is that most online attempts to spell out a hierarchy fail miserably. And I've never found myself to have more or less power than anybody else (at least on the Fray -- wikifray a little different but at the end of the day not really). There are a few folks running around who annoy the crap out of me, but damned if I can think of anything to do about it. Really the worst thing I think I can do is ignore someone (and also the best, in terms of defending myself from abuse). On the fray, I try to maintain a certain level of credibility among the people I respect. That's hardly hierarchy.

All that said, it's not like I don't know what you're talking about. Some posters dole out a lot of abuse, and some posters endure a disproportional share. At the same time, the few times I've been abused, I in effect wound up taking part in my own humiliation by responding instead of going for a walk. So I guess I don't see "structures of dominance and submission." But I haven't been reading all that closely (on BOTF). Maybe I'm part of the problem.

Keifus said...

Heirarchies: I don't tend to have much patience with either enthusiastic leaders or followers, even if they have their occasional places. Does that mean that I'm defining myself in opposition to the concept of dominance? I'd rather not have to use that framework.

Actually, August basically nails it: "establish a certain level of crediblity..." I think it's a fine credo. I suppose groups can coalesce out of mutual respect (and segregate by means of unequal respect). But I don't like these conversations. They lead to examination of my own crappy behaviors.

I kind of liked the "family of individual blogs" model that was going for a while. It seems to work elsewhere. Problem is, none of us write enough.

If I write something in the near future on driving, will I be following?