Recollection of Driving Alone

I park my 1996 white Ford Explorer outside each night. The snow piles on. The plow plows it in. The moisture inside from the tracking in of snow on my boots is frozen deep into the synthetic gray carpet fibers and won’t escape until late spring. There is ice on the windshield from the warm defroster air blowing on it during my five minute drive home from work the night before.

My car is exceptionally clean on the inside. Especially for such an old car. There are only a few things inside it: an ice scraper, a pair of snowshoes, and a frisbee leftover from summertime fun.

It’s not the detail of my car that I’m reminded of this morning, but the trips I have taken in it. Specifically, not any one trip in particular, but any of the long cross-half-country trips that began before sunrise on the cold like today.

There was a routine to it all. I’d unlock the driver’s door and pull it open slowly so that the snow along the top edge wouldn’t fall and blow all over the driver’s seat. Then I would set my full travel mug of hot coffee down in the cup holder before starting the car. Once it was cleared of snow, I’d jump in (careful, always, to know my shoes together to rid them of snow).

Like we’re taught in elementary school that stories have a beginning, middle and end, the drives that began before sunrise and lasted through the day had the same progression. The beginning and end were enjoyable – the middle I just had to get through.

Early on in the drive, my leather seats were cold and warming up. I was settling into the seat and the heat in the car was still cold. My coffee kept me warm, but the empty bottom of the mug always showed itself before my first stop for gas. Early morning radio – usually Mike & Mike or another news variety show – was better than the repeat information I would hear the rest of the day. I rarely listened to music.

Eventually, there was a point – maybe an hour into the ride – when I would feel settled. I would enter the zone and just keep the car rolling. This was maintained, despite stops along the way.

Getting out to get gas, snacks, more coffee – that was a challenge. Usually the weather was cold and blowing. There were times when the gas would blow on my pants and I’d have to change to escape the smell.