Or the Secret Language of Windshield Wipers…
I’m not a big fan of driving. I dislike driving at night, I hate even more driving in the rain. Hurtling along at great speed, encapsulated by a hissing halo of horizontal rain, with the wipers’ flickering pantomime in from of you and huge black behemoths and welters of lights looming on the right must be about as close to space travel as you can get on earth… (outside of a video game, except game over is not really an option.)
Freeways are actually non-places, perilous and intoxicating. Perilous because we seem to leave common sense at the on ramp, intoxicating because they provide us with such a seductive illusion of progress at any cost. Of necessity, they are to travelling what fast food places are to nutrition – cheap, rapid and you’re happy to show your heels to the exit sign. The time you spend on them is non-time, as the only reason to go on the things is to gain a few minutes. It’s not a journey, it’s a struggle against the grim reaper and falling grains of sand. Or perhaps the pentitence for the privilege of the illusion of progress.
I know reality is more prosaic, and we amply deserve the effluence our affluence. True, with the cruise control blocked at around 140 kmh (the first few kilometers over the limit are free…) you can cover a lot of ground in a short time. Granted, traffic must circulate in the most efficient manner. Agreed, they are well-designed and all that, but still…
Isn’t it a symptom of our times, that a major portion of our collective experiences are those imposed on us by the constraints of our progress? Driving in my nocturnal rain capsule, I wondered about all the other poor fools like me on the same freeway, all sharing the same non-time in the same non-place. All skittering along like stones thrown by the great hand of some cosmic trickster across a shoreless lake. All probably wishing we were someplace else…
But the rain, of course, brings me to…
A couple of shots from that beach from a few weeks ago.
The charming village of Gruyéres is at the top of a hill; hill up which you can normally motor to near the top, where a capacious parking lot awaits your car, and from where you proceed on foot to the village and castle itself. When I got there Sunday (one of my three contractual obligation sabbaths), the road was blocked off at the very bottom of the hill, and every parking lot was already crammed full. In my most convincing manner, I said “I’d like to go up to the castle please.”
“No sir, you’ll have to park down here.”
“But I really need to drive up, if you’ll permit.” (My trunk was full of limited prints and signed books.)
“No sir, (are you deaf already or just hard of hearing?) there’s no more parking spots, you’ll have to park down here.”
Why don’t I think to pull out my driver’s licence at moments like that? Cranking up my courage, I made my feeble attempt to pull rank and said mumble mumble that I was mumble john murmur artist howe and would really appreciate being let through. (I often dream of having a great booming authoritative voice that would get me through any situation – vade retro securitas – but generally I just mumble inaudibly into my beard.)
“I wasn’t born yesterday,” the fellow replied, “you’re not the first one to try that this afternoon. Go park over there and stop holding up the traffic.”
I finally did manage to get partway up the hill on my second try, so only had to hike the last few hundred yards. Left the prints and books in the car, though…
All photos © Crooty
ON THE NIGHT TABLE
Beowulf by Seamus Heaney and Microcosm by Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse.
Bit of a cold this week, so this is a rather short and slightly hoarse newsletter.
See you soon!