I used to have this drive that took me nowhere. It wound past warehouses, trailer parks, big-box stores, and a rundown horse racing track. It turned out of town on a two-lane road that sliced between the river and the airport, eventually spitting out by a freeway that would have carried me into the Columbia River Gorge and all the way across the country if I'd wanted. Instead, I'd turn around and trace the path home.
It's Not All Bad?
That was when I lived in Portland, Oregon, from my early 20s into my mid-40s. I took that drive on sunny days with the windows down and at night in the rain. I drove it when I was angry. I drove it when I was sad. Sometimes, I drove it just to give myself some time to think. Really, I drove it because I've always enjoyed driving nowhere at all.
Which is good, because nowhere is about the only destination available at the moment. Most places are closed. The places that aren't, aren't exactly Disney World. And Disney is closed, too. But the roads are open.
Meanwhile, police are being more discerning in who they stop. "Don't pull anyone over unless you have to," is how one officer in Michigan described the situation to Car and Driver. Still, take your time. That's how Grandma and Grandpa did it. That's what Chuck Berry sang about. And since we have plenty of time right now, take it slow. The hospitals don't need any more visitors. Actually, nobody needs visitors.
Whatever day of the week, it's a good day for a Sunday drive. That leisurely once-upon-a-time American pastime. It's a simple pleasure, one still available in an anxious world where nothing seems simple or pleasurable. Even in California, where a shelter in place order was given on Thursday night, there's an exception for engaging in outdoor activity. Roll down the windows. Now you're outdoors.
Your car came standard with social distancing, and if you want to put even more space between you and civilization, you can. Just keep an eye the gas gauge---or the battery charge. Bring along the family. You're already living with them. Or don't. They may need a break from you as much as you may need one from them.
You probably already have a favorite route. Maybe it takes you out into the country, onto winding, largely empty roads. Maybe it's a slow roll through town, passing by life's little dramas: someone tangled in a leash mid dog walk, a couple laughing, a couple fighting, a busker singing on a street corner. Those sights and sounds might be different right now, but the nice thing--the reassuring thing--about being behind the wheel is that you're behind the wheel.
You're in control of the car.
It goes right when you tell it to go right. It goes left when you want it to go left. You can speed it up, slow it down. It listens. In a world where toilet paper is a precious commodity, sweatpants are business as usual, and the news cycle lashes us with one terrifying and heartbreaking story after another, being in control of anything right now is comforting.
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