I left our house at 6:30 a.m. The sky was bleak, clouds masked the moon and stars, and it was raining steadily. Street lights shone on rain-slick roads as I navigated I-270 and then took the I-71 North off-ramp. From there, it is a straight shot to Cleveland.
The rain beat on the roof of my car. Spray from tractor-trailers I passed coated my windshield in the glare of the headlights from the approaching cars heading south. The windshield wipers slapped at their normal, mind-numbing rhythm, and thunked when turned to top speed to deal with the grimy splatter from trucks. I tried to find a decent radio station.
The cold, wet, and unremarkable Ohio countryside scrolled past, outside my warm and dry interior automobile cocoon. My God, I could be anywhere — and anytime! I’ve driven this same bland stretch of road hundreds, probably thousands, of times, and it has not changed. Concrete overpasses, green signs, field trees and scrub bushes long the highway corridor, the occasional barn and house in the distance — and then the garish lights of gas station signs and McDonald’s arches at the next exit.
The miles roll by, and I reach a state of virtual mindlessness. My higher brain has been emptied of conscious thought, and my lower brain is fully and happily occupied with the task of carefully steering the car toward my pre-programmed destination, making the hundreds of little decisions about speed and lane changes that driving requires.
As I approach the outskirts of Cleveland, I am struck by the genericness of it all. There are two hours gone, never to be recovered. And I know that, soon enough, I will repeat the same forgettable exercise again . . . and again.