One thing very different about my life post-NYC is how much I drive now. I’m not entirely happy about this, though there are several pleasures about driving: how great music sounds in a car, for example, or passing through swaths of natural beauty in a particularly cinematic way. My car has become like a second room, full of music, snacks stashed away, my gym bag in the backseat, a fashion magazine spilled over onto the floor.
But overall, I don’t like the fact that I’m driving and burning up gas. I try to allay my environmental guilt by reminding myself I spent nearly my entire adulthood up to this point not driving, relying on public transit and avoiding car ownership. But still, at a time when gas prices are so high and the impact of our consumption on the environment is so apparent, being a driver smarts, especially living in a town whose public transportation is shamefully paltry.
But the strangest thing about driving is being confronted with the darker thoughts and misanthropic impulses that seem to float up into my consciousness whenever I’m behind the wheel. I get angrier more often; I can’t believe how judgmental I am. I get so irritated at how badly people drive, what poor manners they have on the road, and in my head I deliver these intense lectures on cell phone use while driving. (Also: I really don’t understand why people love to cut across two or three lanes to rush to the left-hand turn lane.) I can feel my temper inside of me flaring up, stinging me with spiky little thorns every time I suppress my desire to lash out over some perceived transgression or another.
At night when I drive, my imagination becomes baroque, wild, and very catastrophic: a car pulls out of a quiet neighborhood and I’m convinced they’ve robbed and murdered someone. A sedan with darkened windows in the lane next to me is going to carjack me — a plastic bag slumped at the side of the road contains a severed head. And sometimes, as I speed down the road looking out through the windshield at the road spread out in front of me, I feel as if I’ve been cut off from the world, trapped behind a glass jar with just my music. Wafting in an airless world: cut off, detached, rigidly clasping at the wheel as I drift in the strange chamber that is my life on the road.
But then I roll the windows down, air fluttering in as the music plays louder, letting the world in even as I speed through it. Most car rides are short; so are my excursions through the dark, jarringly violent corners of my imagination, thank goodness.