There you are. Driving along the Interstate, Turnpike, Hwy, Route or whatever your popular road in whatever place you drive. You’re minding your own business. Maybe talking on your phone, maybe fiddling with your radio or some other electronics. As you look, up ahead, you see brake lights. Goddamit! Traffic is backed up! Various emergency vehicles scream past you with lights and sirens blaring. You can’t see what’s ahead but now you know what the hold up is. There’s an accident. Your favorite radio staion is in a commercial break, overplaying every local ad that’s been run over and over again. The same commercials. It’s gotten so bad that you mute your station, but you get so lost in your own thoughts that you forget to turn it back on.
An hour later you’ve literally inched ahead 1/4 mile. Your usual 30 minute commute has become a 3 hour quest to make it home with enough time to eat and sleep before you have to start all over again. You remember you muted the radio and turn the sound back on only to pick up right where you left off with another uninterrupted commercial block. Finally it’s on. The traffic report! There’s a huge multi-vehicle pile up in the left lane Northbound on the road you’re on. That explains it. But wait..what? Northbound?! Did they say Northbound? You’re heading South! WTF! Can’t these people drive? Let the emergency workers do their jobs! They don’t need you rubber-necking and getting in their way! Just keep moving!
By now you’ve notified everyone who matters that you won’t be home on time. Don’t wait for me. Can you let my dog out? Can you pick up my kid from day care? I’m sorry, but we’ll have to reschedule. Whatever it is, the circumstances of your life just aren’t in synch with everyone elses. Your problems have become an inconvenience to someone else and an embarrassment to yourself.
Two hours later, you’ve advanced 1 mile. Traffic has been choked to one lane as fleets of ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks and police cars fill the left lanes on both directions of the road. You look to your left and you see unimaginable carnage. Metal, glass, stretchers, deployed air bags, and tarps covering human shaped objects. You shudder to think what could be underneath. You try not to look. You don’t want to look. But you just can’t stop yourself. The sheer magnitude of it all.
As your vehicle slowly inches by the scene of this indescribable disaster you keep repeating to yourself, “Oh My God, What happened?” There’s nothing you can do to help. The carnage is so massive you’re not sure you’d want to. You’ve never seen anything like this before. Not really. Your mind begins to play out scenarios to answer the question “What happened?” Why so many cars? Sooo many! What would happen to me? Would I have seen far enough ahead and stopped in enough time? Surely these people had plenty of warning, didn’t they? Why so many cars?
2 hours and 35 minutes later the traffic jam breaks. You press down hard on your accelerator and feel your car accelerate to 80 m.p.h. You don’t normally drive that fast. But it feels so good to just “Go!” All the cops are back at that pile up anyway.
After a few minutes you slow down to 70 m.p.h. as you keep thinking about what you just witnessed. All the while you think to yourself about how you would have reacted if you were the 15th or 20th car to drive up on that carnage. Certainly you wouldn’t have been part of that wreck. Would you? You would have seen brake lights or something alerting you to a problem. What were all those people doing?
Right there. Right there is where it begins. Your judgement. Your condemnation mixed with your sense of compassion for the victims of that carnage. All of a sudden you’re an expert accident investigator. You see, you have to be better than those people in your mind. You have to be more alert and more in tune with your surroundings. You have to convince yourself that something like that would never happen to you. Otherwise you will terrify yourself into never leaving the house again.
Ah, there’s your exit. Blinker on as you slow into the 35 m.p.h off ramp. There’s the yield sign. A quick turn of your head to the left and you merge into the first road home. A few more traffic lights, rights and lefts and you’re in your final parking spot. It’s home. Engine off. Now you sit there for a moment in the quiet, realizing that you made it home while so many others will never go home again. The lucky ones won’t be home for a few days.
That first walk into your home, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Whether you live alone, have family to see or pets celebrating your return home, you put your things down and just notice for a moment how it feels to be at home. In that moment, you become aware that not everyone has that feeling. That feeling of belonging somewhere that you take for granted. Some have that moment dangled in front of them like a carrot only to have it snatched away. Some throw it away.
Here we go. It’s the end of 2016. The year of “It’s all about me.” The afforementioned events are a metaphor for my life, the multi-car pile up. A smouldering mass of bodies, deployed airbags and twisted metal. A long line of onlookers who stare in judgement wondering how in the world any of that can happen.
Some of the victims in that wreck will have sustained injuries from which they will never heal. They can’t just “get over it”. They will have to undergo therapy to learn how to function with what’s left of the uninjured parts of their body. Some of their injuries will be visible and distracting as others try not to stare and pretend they see nothing. Still other injuries will be hidden beneath the thin veil of clothing that hides a dark past. Injuries that will only be known to the professionals who treat them and the closest friends who know about them.
It is often said that it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey. For some, the destination is all that matters. “When you just don’t feel like riding, you just wish the trip was through” – Bob Seger.
What a scattered blog post. It’s all over the place. A multi-car pile up. As you slowly inch past the wreck that is my life, I’ll leave you with a play list of 27 songs for your radio. Music is the language of emotion. Here are 27 of my emotions. I hope your 2017 is the opposite of your 2016.
Blurry – Puddle of Mud
Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
Turn The Page -Bog Seger/Metallica’s version
Creep – Radiohead
When I’m Gone – 3 Doors Down
Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
The Battle of Evermore – Led Zeppelin
Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers
Into The Great White Open – Tom Petty
Here I Go Again – Whitesnake
The Sound of Silence – Disturbed’s version
Superman (It’s Not Easy)-Five for Fighting
It’s Been Awhile – Staind
How to Save a Life – The Fray
Collide – Howie Day
No Rain – Blind Melon
Garden Party – Rick Nelson
Loser – Beck
Save Yourself – Stabbing Westward
Never There – Cake
Ain’t Good Enough for You – Bruce Springsteen
Nobody Else In The World But You – Don Henley
Here Without You – 3 Doors Down
I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
Short Skirt/Long Jacket – Cake
Everything Is Different Now – Don Henley
Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol