Test Of Patience

In the modern world, patience is most certainly not a virtue.  We expect everything immediately, and feel incredibly put upon in the absence of instantaneousness.  Whether it is service at a store, fast food at the drive-thru window, or a split-second response when we type in a search, we demand an instant response.  And don’t even mention the possibility of the spinning circle of delay on our computer screens!

But sometimes, extreme speed is just not an option.  Consider, for example, driving on a winding two-lane country road behind a rusting panel truck.  Your GPS told you that it would take 90 minutes to get somewhere, and with supreme self-confidence you determined that you could do a little bit better than that.  But you didn’t figure on being behind a truck driver who apparently is being paid by the hour, because he sure is taking his own sweet time about getting to wherever it is he’s going.  Doesn’t he realize that your time is hugely valuable?  Doesn’t he approach his job with the same sense of urgency and need for speed that you apply to everything you do?  Doesn’t he understand that you’ve got to get somewhere, and so does everybody else who is now stacked up behind his sorry, slow-moving, rusting ass?

So you fret, and rage, but there’s not much you can do about it, is there?  Sure, you could take a chance, blindly pass him against that solid yellow line, and hope that no car or truck is approaching on the other side at that same moment in time, but you’re not that hot-headed and reckless, and anyway there’s a pretty steady flow of traffic on that other side.  There are no passing lanes on this road, and you’re not getting the intermittent yellow line when there seems to be a lull in traffic, either.  So . . . there’s really nothing to do but accept the fact that you’re going to be moving at a ponderous pace for the foreseeable future.

You think that maybe there’s something on the radio,so you fiddle with the channel changer and find a song that you like and haven’t heard in a while.  Because you’re passing the scenery at a veritable snail’s pace you can take a good look at the houses and trees, and some of them are really very pretty. now that you mention it.  And there’s something simple and kind of enjoyable about driving at something other than breakneck speed, and just letting the car drip into the swales of the roadway and feeling it gripped by gravity as it banks into a gentle turn on the black asphalt.  It’s really not that bad.  And soon enough, the truck driver is turning off the road, and you realize you’re still right on time, and losing a few seconds or even a few minutes because of that slow-moving truck really wasn’t a big deal at all.

It’s not a bad lesson to learn anew, every once in a while.


Goodbye, Man

Dennis Hopper is dead.  Best known for his role as Billy, the leather-fringed drug-added biker in Easy Rider — who seemingly said “man” after every phrase — he was an actor with a knack for creating highly memorable, out-of-the-mainstream characters.

Hopper was excellent as the photographer in Apocalypse Now, as the sympathetic alcoholic basketball-obsessed assistant coach in Hoosiers, as the mad bomber in Speed, and as Kevin Costner’s one-eyed nemesis in Waterworld.  He never seemed to play an average guy with a desk job, a mortgage, and a wife and kids.

To my mind, Hopper’s greatest role was as the skin-crawlingly creepy nutbag, Frank Booth, in Blue Velvet.  Hyper-violent, appallingly obscene, sadistic, deeply troubled, constantly sucking on his mask of drug vapors and calling for someone to play the “Candy-Colored Clown they call the Sandman,” Hopper was riveting and totally believable every instant he was on screen.  His magnetic and utterly disturbed character was a big reason why Blue Velvet gets my vote for the most suspenseful, terrifying movie of the past 30 years.