People on the Highway

At some point in our lives, we all must realize that every one is the hero of their own story.  Each person is on their own quests, battling their own ‘boss fights’.  While I see the guy at the deli counter as the butcher, he sees me as the customer that buys just way, way too much pastrami.  All those people that ignore yield signs, follow far too close, or otherwise fail to drive properly must have reasons for such actions.

Recognizing other people’s stories is at the heart of all these People on the Highway posts.  It’s a good reminder that other adventures are going on around me.  Today all my comic book and video game experience finally came into the real world when I saw an actual, without a doubt, beyond question quest item drive by me.  A blue wheel barrow in the back of a gray work truck.

Today’s tale: The Quest 

In black-and-white comic books really important items on the page get color.  In video games, really important items get different shadowing or maybe a glowing halo.  Regardless of medium, important items to a quest are made visually prominent. Until this very morning, I did not know this sort of visually cue could happen in real life.

A gray work truck, probably primer colored for all I know, merged from the left lane to just ahead of me in the right lane.  Every bit of the truck was covered in a thin layer of cement dust and in the open bed it was hauling a pallet of cinder block to whatever construction site it was going to.  At first glance the truck looks poorly rendered, like it was just a background graphic that no one was ever meant to pay attention to; even the driver is obscured by the early morning sun.

Sitting by the gray cinder block in this gray truck with the gray bed covered in gray dust is a bright blue wheel barrow.  The eye is drawn to this spot on the truck.  It is well out of theme and it dawns on me; this is a quest item.

As I have not recently met any barkeeps or highway vagabonds, this is not an item I am searching for.  Bought a wheelbarrow myself over the weekend, I’m all full up.  So this not my quest, but who around me might be searching for a big blue wheel barrow?

Then I spot the hero of this particular story.  Sitting behind the wheel of a pretty standard Honda sedan, a young man is on his way to a morning shift at a lunch place – probably a sandwich shop.  He’ll be there through 2:00 and then head to class where he’s learning automotive repair.  Normal kid, normal situation; big quest.  That wheel barrow is going to help him in a quest so many his age go through; impressing a girl.  Not just any girl, but Tina from down the block.

The driver, David, talks to Tina every afternoon (after class of course) and this week she’s expanding the garden beds at home.  She’s been moving dirt around in a bucket though.  David is eyeing this wheelbarrow like it is the Golden Fleece.  The wheelbarrow gives him the chance to do something nice, help out with the work, spend time with Tina; all good things.  If this were an actual video game he could just jump on the wheelbarrow and put it in his inventory.  It is not though.  If he tried that he’d be violently run over by highway traffic.  So David is going to go another route; ask his parents if he can borrow their wheelbarrow.  Much less stealing involved in this plan.

Later this week, David is going to take an old metal wheelbarrow down to Tina’s house and help out with the garden.  At some point during the day, he’ll learn that Tina obtained a new quest item this week as well. An acceptance letter to grad school.  In Virginia.  That is when David will learn that everyone has their own quests, and when quests are completed the plot advances and some characters are never heard from again.  Fun to be part of an act or two though.  At least he didn’t steal a wheelbarrow.



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