The meetings were over. The work week finished. Nothing left to do now but get home and start the weekend. Tim faced a 3-hour drive before that could happen. The rented car was not one he would own. Too small to be a practical family car, even if the kids were now grown. The clerk had offered him a choice at the counter. A generic four-door sedan or the sporty hardtop convertible Mazda MX-5 he now climbed into. Same price? The decision had been simple.
Tim unlatched the roof and pressed the button to retract it. The rear deck panel raised and the roof folded itself into the space between the seats and token-sized trunk. The panel lowered again and sealed in place. He put on his sunglasses after connecting his iPod and setting the GPS for home. Audio controls were on the steering wheel. He was ready.
He drove a few miles down the road before stopping for gas. He filled the tank from 1/4 to Full and grabbed a few snacks and bottled water for the road. Nothing should cause a break in his trip now. He pulled smoothly into the light traffic and settled in for the drive.
His music played, the sun shone, the wind moved in a shell around him. Over the windshield, down the sides, minimal turbulence in his cockpit position. He discovered that changed when he passed others or they (attempted) to pass him. He maintained his distance from others ahead and behind him to maximize the enjoyment of his personal bubble.
The road rolled out in front inviting him ever forward. He set the cruise control to stabilize his speed and keep him out of trouble with police. They were a consistent presence along this rural highway. The speed limits reduced as he approached intermittent little towns and the local law enforcers took their city limits seriously. He knew that and was determined to give them no cause for conversation. Up ahead, another driver was on the shoulder receiving special attention from the tall officer in the wide-brimmed hat. The officer’s pursuit cruiser flashed its lights for all to see and remind them they could be next. Tim moved to the far lane and lowered the music (respectfully) as he passed them.
Halfway home and the pleasant drive continued. The week’s long daily meetings and the intense interaction between the participants melted away as the distance unfolded. The music thumped loud bass tones that shook the trunk and he flowed around the sparse vehicles he encountered on the road. His iPod set to “Shuffle Songs” offered a broad mix from his personal collection. Today, he tended to skip over the slower, softer, more instrumental tunes and instead hit on the techno, pop, dance, or rock songs with a pronounced beat to fuel his mood.
Almost there, just a tunnel under the bay, a long bridge to finish the crossing, and less than 30 miles to go. He had never traveled through a tunnel in a convertible before. He usually went through with the windows up and the vents closed to avoid sucking in the exhaust fumes. Today would be different. Top down, wide open to the experience, he entered the tube.
The noise was deafening. It surprised him. The air quality seemed fine. The sounds of engines, tires on pavement, and rushing air were all magnified through echoes and reverberations off the tunnel surfaces. He silenced his music. It made no difference. He hadn’t been able to hear it over all the noise anyway. The sound continued to assault his ears as he descended, and sustained itself as his vehicle climbed out the other side.
He emerged from the tunnel and the overwhelming noise vanished as sound waves were once again allowed to travel out and away from him. He drove the remaining length of the concrete bridge over open water. He kept his music off until he reached land with trees on both sides of the highway once again. His ears now recovered, he restarted his random playlist.
Almost there. He remained disciplined as he approached his goal. Even through growing anticipation of reuniting with his family, he used the cruise control to resist the temptation to speed. Except for that one unexpected boost he experienced on a long lonely stretch of road an hour back, he had been good. The little convertible had almost jumped in acceleration from highway speed to UH-OH! In that moment, he confirmed to himself he could never own one of these, even if for a daily commute of one person. The temptation might prove too great.
Final exit off the highway onto neighborhood streets. He once again silenced his music and slowed to speeds safe for children at play. A few turns more and he pulled into his own driveway and stopped. He took a moment to raise the roof into place and lock the latch. Windows raised and doors locked, he emptied the trunk of his travel bags and walked up the driveway to the house. Home safe.
Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?