People on the Highway

My dad and I were running errands one afternoon when I about 14 years old.  He would have been right around my current age at the time.  I remember the day being warm, sunny and we were zipping down a four lane road in a weird residential/commercial zone.  Heading northbound we saw a large group of people standing in front of a house on the right side of the road.  It looked like a party and parties are fun so we honked and waved as we drove by.  A few people in jeans and baseball caps turned our direction, but did not wave back.

Shielded from our view was a hearse.  It was a funeral home.  We honked and waved at a wake.  Not exactly our best moment.

I bring this up because today I saw a fellow driver’s face turn from complete joy -ear to ear smile, head bobbing to music – to suddenly remembering something dumb they did in 10th grade.  We’ve all been there, buddy.

Today’s tale: Ugh

A Toyota Camry is such a peaceful looking car.  I’ve had a white one behind me for a few blocks now.  It looks like the vehicle representation of a dog who gets to go to the park and play with tennis balls all afternoon.  The driver looks like he’s all too happy to help his car get out in the sun.  There’s finger drumming on the steering wheel happening, head banging going on; there is one happy moment going on in that car.

We had to stop for a red light and all at once the happiness was sucked from the car.  The driver looked left then right, moved to turn down his stereo and even removed his hat.  The drumming stopped and he just stared forward, eyes wide open and lost in thought.

A memory was triggered at his glance to the car beside him; a beat up, bumperless Chrysler Sebring.  His face turned pale and his breathing became labored.  This is not a memory of saying something mean to a friend or doing something dumb with a number 2 pencil.  No, this is far, far worse than a matter that could be hugged out or laughed off; this has to do with a particularly embarrassing moment from high school.  A moment that spiraled out of control the very second it began.

He is remembering a time we all fear will pop up in our dreams; class presentations.  A book report in particular.  A book that was meant to broaden his appreciation of literature, but instead caused a distrust of the ‘classics’.  For three chapters he was Holden, but after that he was just bored-en.    He was going to say so in his report, but he never made it to the front of the class.

As he stood from his desk his feet fumbled over one another.  He plummeted to the ground shouting, “fiddle sticks!” His report papers flew into the air and fell into the whip cream topping of a caramel iced coffee drink of non other than Mia, undeniably the most popular girl in the school.  He tried to pick up the papers but wound up tipping over the drink onto the backpack of Reggie, the school’s star drama student.

It was a bad day he has not thought of in close to 20 years.  He knows it does not matter at all now.  He knows the following day he was given iced coffee drinks as a joke.  He knows he passed that English class.  He knows it was incredibly embarrassing and the awkwardly shaped high school student he was reacted to everything in such a cringe worthy manner The Office could have used it all as a bit.

The light turns green and the Sebring falls out of view.  I look back and the Camry driver seems to be getting back into steering wheel drumming.  I can only hope the rest of his day does not involve more embarrassing memories.



Thanks for reading!


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