Since 1994, Jody and I have driven to work north from Union, Ontario through St. Thomas to London. The speed limit on the two-lane road is 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). For the first year or two, I zipped along at 85 – nice and peaceful. One day though, I noticed that a car was tailgating me for part of the way. Days later, someone else did the same thing. Then it was every day. Where, oh where, did my little peace go?
At some point, I decided to up my speed to 90. Ahhh. Back to a gentle experience of driving. Maybe around 2000, however, the space to my rear started filling up again with bumper after bumper. And so it continued. I’ve valiantly resisted the temptation to push things to 100. Instead, I get to feel the press of society most days on Wellington Road South, and to let the feelings waft over me … minutes of frustration, pings of anger, and eventually a recurring sadness. Who have we become? Where are we going? And why is it better to get there fast?
I see the good and the bad on the roads. People allowing the first car coming out of a hospital parking lot at rush hour to merge into the traffic flow. Letting a left-turning driver facing you complete the move, releasing them and the pent-up parade of cars behind to go on their way. Waving to a kind motorist after a good deed performed. All of these actions gladden my heart. We take care of each other.
And then again, what about the speedster who roars past me on the shoulder when I’m turning left? Or the oblivious one who blocks an intersection? Or the sudden lane changer who makes me exercise my braking ability? I contract. I sweat. It’s a “you or me” world.
I love driving. I love placing my hands on the wheel just as I have for five decades – left hand lower than the right. That feels so comfy, and is a tradition that I hope to carry into my 80s. I love the slow acceleration from a new green light, feeling the engine, sensing the “rightness” of the transition. I love the smooth flow of Hugo or Scarlet on a curve. I love saying hi to the horses and cows lounging in the roadside fields. I love coming upon license plates that I recognize on my commutes. It’s like I know the occupants of those vehicles. I love being with Hugo in London, Bayfield, Toronto, Nova Scotia and Massachusetts, returning to a parking lot and finding my old friend there.
Sitting, walking and lying down meditation are all lovely. So, I’ve found, is driving meditation. Can I be present as the rest of the motorized world seems to be creeping up to that red light? How about when the gentleman or lady ahead is going 20 kph below the speed limit on a sunny July day? Or a Costco customer has taken up two parking spaces with his singular conveyance? All grist for the mill. Go, my dear Hugo, go. It’s a wonderful world.