Today I decided to share a brief personal essay – “Remember that Time?” It isn’t particularly deep or meaningful, just an (hopefully) entertaining story about unexpected happiness.
In the grand scheme of things, an hour and a half is not a long time. A mantra that probably, strung end on end, over and over, actually made the bi-weekly trip to my co-op longer, rather than its intended effect. In the grandest scheme of things, I would tell myself, my existence is a dust speck in a limitless galaxy. An hour and a half is not a long time.
But the time drug on, nevertheless. Every Tuesday and Thursday my feet thudded onto the floor at five-thirty, and thudded onto the accelerator precisely an hour later. The trip into the city, with the sun at my back and the day ahead, was manageable. It was the return trip that seemed to chip years off my life, no matter how grand a scheme I considered. By the end of the day, all I wanted was to get home, and all that stood in my way was that pesky hour and a half.
I mentally ticked off an extensive list of landmarks as home grew closer. There is a particular intersection that marked the end of my mind numbing highway driving, and the start of the country roads I knew so well. The start of anticipation, and the gradual flooding back of those precious years.
No matter how tired I am, that intersection means I am halfway home and safely back on familiar ground. Once I pass through its glorious threshold – McDonald’s on one side and Wendy’s on the other – I can finally relax. On good days, I stretch my muscles and turn the radio up. On harder days, I rest my forehead on the wheel while the light lapses red. On the strangest day of them all, I combined the two. Arching my neck forward and pursing my lips like a malcontent tortoise, I rested my chin on the steering wheel. I slowly stretched my neck, looking first at my sleeping passenger and then at the chipper face of Wendy. I turned to the other side and saw a kindred reptile.
I overlooked her at first, the girl stretching her neck up from the driver’s seat to smell the air freshener dangling from her rear view mirror. But in the next second, I dropped the tortoise and became the hare, my head snapping back to her as our eyes met. She froze. I froze. Her sniffing face furrowed. My tight lips quivered. Another second passed. We burst out laughing.
My brother jumped awake at my sudden laughter and asked me what was so funny, but my response was drowned out as I continued to laugh. I put one hand on my stomach, already in stitches, and slapped the other frantically against my window. On the other side, the girl’s passenger looked back and forth between the two of us. The girl flailed about with gestures like mine, unable to explain why this stranger had her giggling in fits.
We laughed until tears streamed down my cheeks and the girl’s passenger finally understood. She gave me a thumbs up and shook her head with a smile. The light turned green, and I waved goodbye to this strange new friend, still laughing.
Miles down the road, I finally got my giggles under control and explained the meeting to my brother. Naturally, I started laughing again, but this time he was laughed with me, and the intersection went from a meager mile marker to a glorious do-you-remember-that-time monument. All of a sudden, thanks to a moment of shared weirdness through eye contact, I realized that my trip was not so bad. How could it be, if it allowed to me experience moments like that one? Sure, an hour and a half is not a very long time, but moments can last forever.