Friday, February 3, 2012

Off the Road

Santa Feans drive like rats scurry. They'll hesitate until you're almost upon them, then dart out just before your vehicle. That is if they've even stopped at the stop sign in the first place. Lane changes are equally abrupt. Usually, they are driving well polished German machines. This blitzkrieg makes the overcrowded streets of our city an unpleasant place to traverse. The "rush" in our "rush hour" refers to adrenaline.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the trucks, huge walls of black and chrome that move cautiously through the narrow lanes of downtown as if it were Baghdad, braking at the slightest movement in their periphery. Most often they bear Texas plates. Their country cousins are the pickups, usually F-1-whatevers, crawling along the roads just outside town. There are usually 3 silhouettes across the bench in the cabin, and the bed is piled with shovels and overturned wheelbarrows, looking menacing like some armored vehicle out of Road Warrior. They never seem to be in a hurry, the extra minutes they take as they crawl back to town are of course billable to whatever client decided that the Three-toothed Blazing Star would look perfect beside the lanai. I'm not caught behind these trucks now that I've moved out of moneyed Tesuque. And admittedly, I've always had a prejudice about oversized vehicles. I remember once in Phoenix, I saw a Humvee park not far away from where my friends and I were having an outdoor breakfast, as one does in Arizona. I walked toward the vehicle, in order to ask the driver what he was so afraid of, that he needed to drive such a huge, wasteful machine. As I neared, who should step out but one of the linemen for the Phoenix Cardinals. And I walked briskly past, as if I had pressing business at Blockbuster on the other side of the parking lot. But trucks still rankle. Just the other day, while parked and waiting for a friend, a massive SUV pulled beside me, left idling while the owner popped into the market. I quickly dubbed this Chevy Navigator, "The Irritator".

One of my favorite things about driving in rural New Mexico is how friendly everyone is, how everyone waves. (One exception of course is the ruralites approach to vehicles left at remote trailheads. Many a friend has returned to broken windows and slashed tires.) This friendliness seems to stop at the city limits. Turn signals are ignored, since a turn signal is an expression of courtesy. In todays' America, courtesy is taken as an expression of weakness, and we can't have anyone thinking that they are more important than we are, can we? A simple thank you is seen in the same light. I remember pulling into the Trader Joe's parking lot beside a woman loading a baby into her shiny car. I didn't want to crowd nor rush her, so I waited probably a good 5 minutes for her to get her child, then herself aboard. And then she pulled away without a glance my way.

So, I often chose to drive into town along the backroads, where the traffic is light. And in reading this, the reader is undoubtedly happy that I no longer drive in Santa Fe at all.

On the turntable: "Singles" (OST)

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