Road Not Taken

I have a soft spot for the myth and romance of the open road even though I dislike driving. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be a problem. When Rebecca and I talk about the road trips we’ll take some day, we have both agreed that she will be the one behind the wheel. My job will then be navigation, dumb-joke telling, choosing the music, and changing the music when she’s not in the mood for punk rock.

So far, this is all in the realm of the hypothetical. The reality of our travels has been flying or taking the train to our destination then getting around either by public transportation or on foot. All of our trips have been quite enjoyable, but they don’t exactly evoke the spirit of Kerouac.

In the meantime, I try to make do with my imagination and my daily commute. There are over 80 miles round trip so you would think that would give my brain something to chew on. And it does in large part. Commute time is decompression time. My mind wanders off to wherever it feels the urge to go so even if I’ve had a stressful day, I step off at my stop at 24th and Guerrero feeling relatively sane. It’s a bit like spending a couple of hours in a bar minus the liquor.

One thing my commute cannot do is simulate a road trip. This is strange because it has all the basic ingredients: a road, a vehicle, and motion. The only thing missing is what’s required for any adventure: the unknown. Day in and day out, the bus follows the exact same route from San Francisco to San Jose and back. Even the lane the bus is in on a given stretch of highway differs very little.

I don’t want to believe that it’s all so predictable. I even went so far as to blog about how it’s impossible to truly know the world around us because of all the details even the keenly observant can miss and how things change over time. My argument was not completely without merit, but there was an element of bullshit to it as well. It was like saying we cannot know what a beach is because we have not memorized every grain of sand and that the tides and crashing waves can move some of that sand around. I’m sure there’s a name for this logical fallacy. Something involving a forest and trees, I imagine.

So the reality of my commute does not lend itself well to this brand of make-believe I wish to impose upon it. It doesn’t need to. It has its own surreal quality. It is a piece of conduit connecting my home and work life, but it a part of neither. I exist on the bus, but I serve absolutely no purpose there. There are other people riding with me, but interaction with them is not expected or even appreciated. We have our laptops and smartphones to keep us amused and we all just stick to ┬áthose.

This is fine by me. I’m not one of those people who is constantly bemoaning how technology alienates us from our fellow human being. I’m old, older than most of the technology they’re talking about, and have felt at least a little bit alienated my entire life. Yeah, I’ll put down my phone, but it sure as hell won’t be so I can find out what the guy watching “Friends” on his laptop in the seat in front of me ┬áhas to say about life.

Instead, I’ll turn my focus inward. It’s an appropriate move here on the bus and I’m good at it. Maybe I’ll find the road I’m looking for to while away the time.

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