Life on the Road

So I have a confession to make: I commute to school. Just for this year, I assure you. After being shell-shocked by the number of zeroes on my mandatory student fee reports last year, I decided to save a bit of money on housing by living at home. I also figured that life is too short to be spent away from loved ones, so I decided to catch up on some quality time with my car.

Admittedly, the drive can get pretty dull. However, there are certain developments and things I do that help me stay engaged. Here is my story, a winter quarter tale of whimsy and despair, hope and horror, makeup and mattresses:

Week 1. While groggily chugging along past an elementary school near my house, I saw a woman with an orange ski mask and hot pink puffer vest walking her kid to school. Needless to say, I was awake the rest of the drive. Did I also mention it was 75 degrees out?

The next week, I spotted two motorcyclists performing stunt tricks at 85 m.p.h. on the I-405 North freeway. One of them swung his legs over the left side of his motorcycle, holding up his body in midair while gripping his handlebars. His companion followed suit with a half-minute-long wheelie.

“They have a death wish!” I exclaimed in astonishment.

Except this was free entertainment, so I wasn’t complaining.

A couple days after that, I watched as a brazen middle-aged woman in an adjacent lane maneuvered her car without the use of her hands. With an inch of makeup already caked on her cheekbones of steel, she was intently applying blush with the enthusiasm of a construction worker paving a road.

“No, SHE has a death wish!” I muttered.

And then I sped off before she could crash into me, all of her two tons of car steel and fifty pounds of cheap makeup. I was certain that a collision with her car would lead me to headline the next day’s news:

“Innocent Girl Slams into Human Chemical Storage Facility.”

“Crash Site A Hazardous Waste Site.”

“Drivers Urged To Stay Away From Apocalyptic Scene.”

“Woman’s Noxious Chemicals Will Rip Hole In Nose.”

Meanwhile, when I wasn’t serving as spectator to this circus aptly termed “life,” I was enthusiastically singing to music. I figured that my commute is the only time during which I can do so (badly) without people hearing. In my haste, I didn’t realize that they could still see me in their rear view mirrors.

Here is how the scene typically unfolds: Natalie is getting her groove on. Natalie doesn’t know the lyrics but that doesn’t stop her mouth from contorting into grotesque shapes in attempts to sing them. Natalie is not Alicia Keys, but sometimes she likes to pretend she is. Natalie is spotted by the bewildered driver in the car in front of her. Natalie gives the driver an awkward nod of acknowledgment, swerves into the next lane and floors it.

And then Natalie apparently doesn’t learn her lesson, because this awkward dance of social interaction happens every single drive.

Speaking of music … the other day, I also started keeping mental statistics on how many times a Lady Gaga song plays on the radio per driving session. From my highly unscientific estimates, I’d say I hear Ms. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta an average of seven times per commute.

Sorry to the Lady Gaga fans, but I can’t listen to her on such a prolific basis. Eventually I’m forced to turn the music off because it’s playing love games with my head. The radio and I, we have a bad romance. You have my permission to slap me for these puns.

I always found myself trying to correct the lyrics (“Not ‘you a ho,’ it’s ‘you ARE a ho!’”). Eventually I gave up on my noble mission of grammatical proportions and instead tried building up my tolerance to rhetorical inaccuracies (“Okay okay, I get it, ‘you a ho!’ I a ho! I da ho! … Iowa?”).

And sometimes I also found myself ruminating on more profound topics of life, dissecting and analyzing the threads that bind our reality together. Like …Why is the Sit n’ Sleep next to the Mattress King? Are they rivals? Are the owner’s children star-crossed lovers? If I resolve the dispute, will the Mattress King sell me a bed at half-off?

Needless to say, it’s been an interesting quarter. I may not be living near campus this year, but you certainly can’t say I don’t have a strong drive for life … or at least for my education.