Have you ever zoned out at the wheel and ended up driving in some totally unforeseen direction that has nothing to do with your intended destination? I have, more than once. Here’s a poem about one such experience.
Roads Not Taken
Hurtling high above the Hudson, pushing sixty,
I execute a daring merge,
then squint against the sun and scan the signs,
glare white on emerald. A second’s split decision,
and I choose the right hand lane toward Loudonville.
Another second, and I know I’m wrong –
the road not taken was the one I wanted.
Or did I really? I should have known the route,
I’ve traveled Northern Boulevard before.
A Freudian slip, perhaps?
I’m dubious about the destination, the appointment
I made with trepidation, for a job that may not pay.
Now I’m confused. This happens more of late.
Is it ambivalence, or early Alzheimer’s? The nearest exit
will take me west for miles and make me late.
I’ll have to detour through a dodgy ghetto
where drug dealers ply their trade along North Pearl.
I must be self-destructive, or just stupid.
Or maybe absent-minded, but that term is obsolete,
and I ain’t no professor anyway. In any case,
it’s clearly mental. Last month, I headed off to see
my shrink in Niskayuna, and somehow ended up
at Crossgates Mall. But I was good – I didn’t stop to shop,
I just missed half my session. She said not to worry –
We all have minor lapses now and then.
When Frost considered those diverging roads,
he had all day to ponder just two choices.
No cloverleaves and skeins of tangled asphalt
engorged with power-maddened, speeding SUVs
intent on running down my tiny Focus.
But like the shrink said, not to worry –
I’ll drive another decade, two at most,
before the oil and gas run out. By then,
my focus soft and fuzzy, I’ll be marooned at home,
cocooned in silken strands of sweet dementia
and slowly pondering pathways in my garden.
I wrote this poem about three years ago. Fortunately, my driving hasn’t gotten appreciably worse since then. I still take wrong turns on occasion, but I don’t believe it’s early Alzheimer’s – just simple distraction, or lack of mindfulness. The most vivid example happened more than 20 years ago, when I was still working as an art therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie. Gassing up during lunch hour one day, I was fulminating about an argument I’d had with a secretary that morning – something about which of us had first dibs on the copying machine.
Finished fueling, I drove out of the gas station and straight into the rear end of a car that had the indisputable right of way, instantly totaling my beloved red Honda hatchback. Fortunately I wasn’t injured. Nor was the other driver, a longhaired young man who climbed out and began screaming. “Lady, what the fuck were you doing?” he yelled, but by then I was sobbing hysterically, so he relented. It was then that I noticed the sticker on the mangled rear bumper of his rusty old convertible. “Shit happens,” it said (the saying was new in those days).
Insurance paid for another red Civic hatchback, and no lasting harm was done, but had I driven out of that gas station a second or two earlier, either or both of us could have died. I’d been neither drunk nor stoned – just slightly sleep-deprived and obsessing angrily over something totally inconsequential. The experience left me with a lasting awareness of how instantly things can go catastrophically wrong – and the importance of defensive and mindful driving.
In my last post, I said I’d write one more piece about funeral planning and the Memorial Society, but I wasn’t up for something so serious tonight. The above is my pathetic attempt at something a little more light-hearted. Not to worry – I’ll get back to the death theme one of these days, maybe even as it relates to mystery writing.
What about you? Any driving misadventures you’d like to share?
*By the way, I just used Microsoft’s word count tool – the above post is exactly 666 words. Now what the devil does that mean? Probably just that I’ve written more than enough.