103 Seconds


This is a moment-in-time story from today.

Around me, the world continued, its billions of inhabitants each contributing their parts to the melee of the planet.

In the passenger seat sat an unusual amount of Mexican food I’d picked up from Acambaro, certainly more than two people should safely eat. In the bag, among other things, were five full orders of pico de gallo. Anyone who dislikes the smell of onions should assume my breath to be worse than normal after lunch. For anyone who doesn’t know: an order of pico de gallo at Acambaro is not your typical meager serving. Five such orders contain and order of magnitude of onions, cilantro, and chopped tomatoes. While you may challenge me to do ten pushups, I challenge you to eat five servings of this with a full meal without questioning your own sanity.

The car smelled like a restaurant as I drove east on Huntsville. Around me, several drivers seemed intent on reaching warp speed. For several, it was obvious they needed to be more concerned about the condition of their vehicles, their personal hygiene, and their ability to confine themselves to at least two lanes. Were in not before noon, I would have assumed several had attended a “Drink-All-You-Want” wine tasting.

As I slowly stopped at the intersection of 265 near the packed Kum & Go, I lowered my driver’s window. All the cars who’d been training for the Indy 500 for the half-mile were in the left lane. I turned my car volume to “19,” a volume that could potentially launch a satellite into orbit. My USB was playing “Automatica” by Nigel Stanford. If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a treat. (And not the kind of treat that’s covered in lint in the bottom of the candy jar at your Grandma’s, either.)

As the young Latino in the first car looked over at me, I smiled like a lunatic, showing him all my teeth. I put the window up, even as I looked at him. I like to imagine how weird it must have looked to him to see me continue to smile like a hyena while the window went up in front of my face. “Inspired By Hannibal Lecter” probably approximates his discomfort. I had to laugh.

The light changed, and the left lane’s performance drivers rocketed off – but not before a small dark Honda vehicle sitting on 265 turned right and went across into their lane. As you would expect, the dark Honda immediately slowed to 25 mph. The fast drivers all hit their brakes as I went past them. I was amused.

As Huntsville curves south lazily, the throng of traffic began jockeying for position as the drivers neared Emma. At that point, Huntsville magically transforms into Butterfield Coach Road, a name so ridiculously preposterous that no one willingly wants to call it that. When Latinos ask me what it means or what the translation for “Butterfield” might be, I sometimes tell them that it is a medical condition characterized by high volume diarrhea. Sometimes I let them continue to think it’s true.

To the south and east, the sky was darkening rapidly.

The City of Springdale changed the roads a few years back to make them safer. I assume that was the reasoning. The stretch of road from Emma to the next huge curve has been beautiful for walking since the road deviated. Now, however, a spur is being built on the inside of the curve on the right side. Frequently, cones suddenly appear from the proverbial mist and force the right lane to suddenly merge with the left. That’s the theory, anyway. What it actually does is weed out those who are under the influence of marijuana and/or using their phones as they drive.

Because I drive it frequently, I tend to assume that someone’s going to do something stupid. Today, as the music blared, I watched a black Grand Cherokee Laredo approach from the rear going at least 70 mph. (Contrary to popular belief, and even though there are a lot of people who want to get out of Springdale as quickly as possible, we don’t have 70 mph zones. Note: the police allow you to drive 90 on 412 if you’ve eaten at Taco Bell – and do so for obvious gastrointestinal reasons.) As the Laredo neared me on the right and then passed, I noticed that their tag was a paper one. I had a sudden insight that it was their turn to be an idiot. There was no sign on their car to indicate this. I just knew.  As they came into the cones pushing them left, I saw the Laredo eat one under the bumper. I assume the driver woke up at that point because the brake lights lit up vividly. I could almost feel the driver’s butt clench up from inside my own car. The Laredo lurched left, like a drunk who’d hit his head on the chandelier. The Laredo then went back and forth quickly. I was convinced I was going to see the driver go off into the large dirt valley that had been recently excavated for what appears to be a new access road. It’s right on the inside of the curve, too, where it will probably inspire more accidents.

Luckily, the Laredo didn’t do a Dukes of Hazzard. We stopped at the next light at Parsons Road.  I noticed a black Escalade in front. On each side of the vehicle was a group of yellow balloons. On the rear, there was a sign wishing someone a happy 2020 graduation. The “O” of 2020 was a roll of toilet paper. I didn’t catch the name on the vehicle. The emergency lights were flashing. I couldn’t see inside the vehicle due to the near-total tint on the windows.

In 2020, maybe it’s a good thing to not see where one might be going.

103 seconds had elapsed since I noticed the time on the usb device on my car stereo.

In a way that you might understand, those 103 seconds felt almost accordion-like in my mind.

When I had time a little later, after writing this, I visited Google Maps and went back in time to 2008 to travel these same roads virtually. What a strange thing memory is, wrapping itself in blankets of time in an unending crescendo.




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