Recently, I have been spending a lot of time on the interstate between Atlanta and South Carolina. The six-hour ride has become rather routine and I actually enjoy the solitude of the journey. One thing that I have noticed is how easily Highway Relationships can be formed. Now I don’t mean a relationship in the literal sense, but I’ll bet we’ve all been a part of them, either knowingly or not.
Here’s how one of mine recently transpired. I’m cruising along on I-20 eastbound making my way towards my first trip marker, Augusta, and I happen to notice a late modeled blue Honda passing me. I look over, as is customary for both truckers and other people that spend many hours on the road, to see a non descript woman about my age navigating her way down the highway totally oblivious to my “trucker glance”. She passes me quickly and then settles back into the right hand lane at a comfortable distance ahead.
As we both make our way down the interstate, I’m noticing things about her car that cause me to know more about her. The make and model of her car reveal to me that she is more concerned about value than status. Also, the color of the car tells me she is stylish but does not like to be the center of attention. Her license plate has a reference to the North Carolina Tar Heels, so I make up a story that she came from a well to do family and now works for a pharmaceutical company and is currently traveling throughout her region.
I am first made aware of our “relationship” as we begin to mirror each others driving preferences. We drive at precisely the same speed. We choose to pass cars at precisely the exact same time. We share the lead equally as we continue down the road going just under the speed limit we hope the State Troopers have set their radar guns on. I even begin to feel her frustration as she is forced to pass a car on the right side because they are driving too slowly in the passing lane. As we continue this highway dance, the miles quickly fall behind us and I find myself actually “looking out after her”. For instance, I’ll pull out into the passing lane to box off another car so that she can pull out to pass as well and not get caught up behind the slow truck or car driving in the right hand lane. When she does get caught up behind a slow car as I am forced to pass her along with the line of the faster cars streaming by, I am soon comforted by her coming up behind me and settling in comfortably either ahead or behind me. It’s all part of the relationship. It’s what you do for each other. We are on this journey together and we are going to look out for each other. Life on the road is good…
Then, at some point during the journey, the unexpected happens. For some reason, things change. Our comfortable cruising speeds now are not the same. She is either driving much slower than before or has chosen to throw caution to the wind and to kick it up several clicks. Our flow has now become disrupted. Why? What happened? Everything was going so nicely? I feel the inevitable coming and I dread it. We will not continue. No more dance, no more blocking, no more miles together. I feel the pain of our parting as I either pass her for what I know will be the last time, or I watch her speed off ahead of me over a distant hill. Or even worse, she chooses to exit the highway. Our dance has ended.
I began to think about all that we went through. All the miles, blocking for each other, sharing the lead, enjoying life at our own comfortable pace. Each of us respecting the journey of the other, all the while never losing site of each other. Now it was just me again. Trying to “make good time” on a trip where time is really not important at all.
Hmm. These thoughts sounded all too familiar. Sometimes life’s lessons will pop up in the strangest places. I began to think about my own failed relationships of the past. I began to question whether I navigated through them with the same effort and care as I had exerted for a complete stranger. It would be something that I would make sure I would attend to in the future if I were to be so fortunate.
These thoughts lingered with me for a several moments as I settled back and refocused my thoughts on making sure I didn’t get stuck behind that slow truck way up ahead.
Then as I looked in my rear view mirror and I saw a silver Volvo approaching…