#458: The Traffic

photo of an empty road during daytime

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Driving through traffic isn’t fun, as anyone who has a long commute can attest to. It’s never interesting having to stop and go, stop and go all over the highway, back and forth, as if you’re eventually getting motion sick. You just do it until you lose all sanity, and even then you still have another couple miles to go before you can get off, so you grin and bear it. You accept the fate that’s been given to you, and you move on with your life regardless.

Driving through traffic makes my mornings exceptionally boring, but the parts of my commute where I just drive normally, where I can flicker through music and podcast options and listen to whatever I feel like, those are the best ones. Friday mornings are nice because there’s usually no traffic to be found, and then the inverse takes place during the afternoon, when Friday betrays me and I have to just wait and wait until I get home. I wish it were easier to deal with this commute, but unfortunately it’s a part of my current exile. It’s a natural state of things.

Being the kind of person who despises traffic doesn’t necessarily mean that I hate driving to work every day. Sometimes it’s nice having peace and quiet to myself, to my own thoughts and head space, for the time that that’s available to me. It might not be long, but it’s there nonetheless.

If I had to choose between driving an hour to work and driving ten minutes, though, I would obviously choose the ten minutes. I’d much prefer having a commute that allows me to sleep in a bit more and stay up a bit later. I’d also prefer having a commute where I’m allowed to get home at a reasonable time. But you can’t always get what you want.

#241: The Second Sleep

alone bed bedroom blur

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I get up in the morning when Alex works 10-6, so that I can drive her to the train station on time. It’s a lot easier than having her walk the whole way there, and plus I get to see her rather than not. It’s a positive no matter how you look at it. This tradition began around February or March, give or take, after I started my new job but before I realized it was convenient for me to drive her, too. Now that it’s summer vacation, I have no excuse not to drive her, and I agree. It just works out well, as a way to get me up earlier without inducing too much grogginess. Nothing wrong with waking up at 8am, right? Right?

I still get some anxiety driving, especially after the most recent incident, but it’s worth it so I can drive her to her destination on time. I sometimes miss these days, especially when Alex returns to working 9-5 or 8-4 instead. Those shifts are much too early for me to drive her, so I sleep instead.

But when I get home from driving Alex, I sometimes go back to sleep. It’s my second sleep, you could say. I like waking up early, but sometimes it’s necessary to go back to bed after having a long, long evening playing video games on the couch. Being a teacher during summer vacation means that, after all. There’s nothing better than the feeling of going to bed a second time, waking up a second time, and feeling totally, completely refreshed all over again. Who doesn’t want that?

My second sleeps are reserved for the days when Alex works 10-6, but I revel in them. It’s another great bonus of her working those days, and even though it might seem the same as just sleeping the extra hours, it’s not.

#168: The Dog Day

two yellow labrador retriever puppies

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Driving around in the morning with Alex fills me with joy and energy to start the day, as I feel a sense of beginning and ending together whenever I wake up and Alex is still around. It’s not the same when she’s got an earlier shift! I love those late shifts for that reason alone, even though she gets more time home when she works earlier. But today, we’re going to talk about how Angus must feel after spending time with me for so long. The day I’m writing this is on a Monday, the Monday after April break, and I’m a bit worried about Angus’s streak, to be honest. He’s been a good boy and hasn’t broken anything in the apartment for 18 days so far, and I trust that he’ll continue this streak further. But what happens is, whenever there’s a time when he stays home with one of us for awhile, he gets used to having company in the apartment. And when that company goes away, as it is about to during this week considering I’m not on April break any more, he tends to lash out a bit. There’s an immediate reaction from him, and he pounces at the opportunity to find food of any kind. I still remember the day when we had a 20-day streak and, after going to the gym for 30 minutes, Angus still ate half of the potato we had resting on the counter. He never reached for them ever before, but during a 30-minute break from the action, he still thought it was appropriate to go off on that poor, defenseless potato. That’s why I’m worried about our dog today, and most days when we’re not around. Who knows what he’s getting up to right now? It could be anything! Anything at all!

#155: The Accident

brown and white bear plush toy

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For a long time, I used to pretend that I was a good driver, even though the more likely situation is that I’m a fairly lucky driver. Except for one time when I accidentally bumped someone’s car in the Branford Starbucks parking lot, I hadn’t gotten in any major accidents or collisions. One time, when driving up to UConn, I narrowly avoided getting totaled on the highway when my brakes blew out, and I had to pull over to the exit ramp and wait, patiently, for AAA to arrive, as my phone battery slowly ticked away at its last life. Needless to say, I was pretty stressed out by this, and it transformed my evening into a night of driving home in the passenger seat of a tow truck. I remember stopping at a gas station and picking up hot fries.

So, when I say that I’m a good driver, what I really mean is that I know how to react in emergency situations to lessen the potential impact of whatever accident is about to happen, or won’t happen. But that’s not always true, especially not nowadays. Accidents happen all the time, on the highway, on the roads, anywhere. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the need to step out and talk with the person who hit you or whom you hit, especially while cars are blaring around you, sirens and horns and angry passengers on the road behind you. As someone with anxiety, that feeling gets stressful very quickly.

In reality, I’m not a very good driver. I still don’t know how to reverse that well, and when I take turns, it’s easy to forget to put my signal on when no one is around me. Obeying the rules should be easy, but sometimes they slip your mind because you’re so focused on other things that preoccupy you. It’s okay though. It’s going to be okay.

#144: The Highway

empty highway overlooking mountain under dark skies

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I talked about my commute in a separate blog post, but today I’ll be discussing, more specifically, the dreaded highway.

When I first started driving, at the age of 17, I was afraid of the highway. I never went on the highway during any of my on-road exhibitions before getting my license, so I had to learn the ropes after passing the driver’s test. To be fair, I haven’t reversed or backed up into a spot since I was 17. I’ve done plenty of three-point turns and parallel parks, but going backwards has never been a favorite of mine.

Nowadays, I rely on the highway for pretty much everything. It’s how I get to work and how I get home from work. It’s also how I navigated my way home when driving back from UConn many times without my GPS available; just knowing what exit to take and when to transfer onto which interstate highway was enough to get me home all those times. Being familiar with the highway gives you an almost unlimited freedom of travel. It’s worth learning how to drive on it, if anything just for that. I mention this because I know a few people who refuse to go on the highway, who are so scared of it that they will never be seen there in their whole lives. It’s kind of a shame, given the highway’s amazing utility.

When I drove to Boston this past weekend, we took I95 the entire way there, and then on the way back, we transferred all over the place: I90, I84, I91, route 15, I95. So many Is; it was mind-boggling to travel that way, but it was scenic and interesting to explore. Google Maps took us in a completely different direction from what we were used to, and we ended up driving past my friends’ place up at UConn.

#116: The Left Turn

left human hand on grey surface

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Today, I’m going to discuss driving, specifically taking left turns. The idea for this blog came to me while I was driving to work this morning. I was in the parking garage of 101 Park Place, pulling out of my parking spot, when I saw another car zooming around the corner. Every time I’m in the garage, it seems there’s another car rolling rapidly along, usually turning right down the stairway. The problem with turning right is, it’s a tight turn and there’s a metal grate lining both sides of the stairway, close enough to the cinder block edges that cars can scratch against it. Inevitably, this happened to me during our first week living in Park Place. I turned right, and the car door was scratched all over. I had a anxiety attack as soon as it happened, knowing fully well I messed up the car majorly but not knowing the extent of the damage done to it. When I pulled over and looked at the car, the anxiety settled a bit, especially because Alex was reassuring me that it wasn’t a big deal. But regardless, the scratches are still on the car and we’ve yet to fix them. It’s on our agenda!

I turn left into most parking spots, also. Not as a result of the scratch, just in general. I’ll go out of my way to turn left into a parking spot and make sure to turn smoothly and slowly into it, even though a right-turn parking spot might be closer to the destination. I love being able to turn left, as I don’t have to stress as much about parking. It’s a deficiency in my driving skills, and yet I don’t really have any urgency to fix it. I feel fine turning left when I need to.

#101: The Playlist

photo of audi parked near trees

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On the way to my friend’s place last Wednesday, I drove up with one of my friends for about an hour after picking him up. It didn’t feel like a long drive, and thankfully we didn’t hit much traffic aside from the usual nonsense. It was just standard; nothing exceptional or outstanding on our way to and from our mutual friend’s house.

But what stood out to me, as we drove from place to place, is the presence of music in a car ride, how the perfect blend of music in a playlist fits into the background like a puzzle piece, not upsetting the balance, not overthrowing the car’s emotional tranquility or atmosphere. How music itself is necessary for a long car ride, otherwise people will feel the need to fill the air with small-talk and fruitless conversation. And as someone with anxiety, no conversation is worse than a forced conversation, even among friends! It can still lead to paranoia and confusion in the car. The mood of the car is important to maintain. One time, I tried playing through my metal playlist, filled with Mastodon and Megadeth and Metallica and other M-named bands, only to realize that it didn’t really jive with the more relaxed, calming mood we had set. Thus, I was overthrowing the steady car feeling. It’s one thing to play a song that someone doesn’t like, but it’s another to play an usurping full set of music.

So, it became important for me to make sure that the music playing as we drove to our friend’s place was worthwhile, but also not dramatically or diametrically opposed to the mood. I gathered a bunch of video game songs that were remixed into lo-fi versions, and I played them for my friend. Turns out, it went well and there was nothing to worry about!

Small people in large trucks

No one-lane roads in the suburbs

Monster truck driver Brad fixes his

Seatbelt to tightly wrap around the brisk smelly air

And nothing else because he’s a badass;

When Brad drives he really drives 

Passing through all the red lights

Getting the little kids in a hurry

He’s sure he’s the reason for the no trucks incoming

Signs because no neighborhood wants Brad

The small man with a small intestine

And a large truck to compensate

Of some Chevy make, his automobile got him

Ladies for sure and zero accidents without a belt

Except for once, when he stormed down the road

With heavy black metal blazing and windows missing

And crashed headstrong into a mail box containing

His heart, soul, and guts in a bundle disintegrated

Under the fiery fervor of a Chevy truck destroying it.

Small people in large trucks never mix, even when

They’re tall and in charge

Small wisdom, Small heart, Small size.

All in the same when they’re dead.