Windows down. A lot like waking up.

July 16, 2010

I TOOK MY car in for a new radiator and it came back with no air-conditioning. Well, not “no-air-conditioning” but a stern warning that the more I used my air conditioner the sooner vital parts of my engine would stop working. I had to choose between comfort and mobility. So I stopped using my air-conditioner. I rolled my windows down.

The first thing I’ve noticed about life with the windows down is that it’s loud. Car rides used to be quiet, almost soothing, but not anymore. Now Janessa and I are shouting, semi-trucks roar in our ears, and the wind alone swallows our voices—hurricane speed, 70 mph wind.

Also, something about the airflow creates this updraft that pulls trash out the windows and suspends long hair at eye level, which is pretty hilarious.

You might think that rainy days would be better, cooler. In fact, they are not. On rainy days—extremely rainy days—I have to keep the windows closed. The air goes stale. My breath gets stuck in my throat, and I can tell I’ve breathed the same air before. It’s this dance between suffocating and getting soaked.

With the windows down, I’ve realized how insulated I was. My car was my culture, my climate, my country. I had my own songs, my own traditions (like keeping trash everywhere, which is now environmentally hazardous). But with the windows down, my world deludes. I can’t escape the climate, the culture, the smells of the real world. Dallas smells like gasoline, Plano smells like lawn, 15th Street smells like produce.

My car used to mean safety, now it means only transportation.

I filled up my car at a gas station on Beltline. People loitered near the front entrance, and a little green Honda pumped rap through terrible speakers. I got gas. I got Gatorade. But when I got in my car and shut the door, I was still there. I was still part of the gas station world. It smelled like tar and oil. And the only way to escape it was to drive away.

It’s not a bad thing, I don’t think, being mixed with the real world. I don’t mind forfeiting totalitarianism for something like democracy. I don’t mind my hair in my eyes.  I don’t mind becoming the passenger. It’s learning that most of the world we construct is pretend. It’s learning that seeing the world through safety glass is not the same as seeing the world. I guess it’s a lot like waking up.

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