Fellow commuter not what he seems

So I get up this morning when the alarm clock goes off at 6 and stumble out to the kitchen. First matter of business, despite the swirl of hungry cats around my legs, is making coffee.

I take out a fresh pack of hazelnut blend. The mouth of the bag is hermetically sealed, and can usually be opened with a simple tug on the sides. Not this morning. I tug and I pull and I strain but nothing happens.

I grab a pair of scissors and make a cut along the edge. Still, I haven’t got past the seal. I make two more cuts before finally getting to the opening. Grounds litter the scene of the wrestling match.

It’s going to be one of those days.

I get the coffee brewing and move on to feeding the cats. Taylor and Harriet eat in the laundry room while the always-ravenous Tom dines al fresco locked in the sunroom. As I lower the measuring cup to Taylor’s bowl, he eagerly bumps it with his head, spilling cat crunchies all over the floor.

I move on to the still-darkened sunroom, and promptly pour Tom’s food into his water bowl. Even he won’t eat Friskies soup, and looks up at me as if to say “Waiter! I’m sending this back.”

Yep … one of those days.

I continue my morning routine with a growing cloud above my head. I take some solace in the fact that maybe I can get a blog topic out of these tribulations, yet a moment later, even that thought depresses me.

I think back over my recent posts and realize how pedestrian the topics of this blog and — by extension, the story lines of my life — have become.

I write about getting a haircut. About the power going out. About yardwork and about cucumbers. About playing Words With Friends on my iPad. I dream about going to Paris, hitting a major league home run and becoming addicted to heroin (not simultaneously, of course), but I never get around to turning these aspirations into reality. How boring.

Sure, yesterday I went “big-picture” with my ideas about how to fix the looming debt crisis. But it involved bringing al-Qaeda into the negotiations, and I don’t think any of the major players in Washington are taking my proposal seriously.

As I’m driving down the interstate toward work, bemoaning my sorry fate, I see one fellow motorist who obviously is listening to the beat of a different drummer. He’s riding a motorcycle, weaving amidst the commuters, helmet-less hair flying in the breeze. (This is South Carolina, where we cherish our freedom to suffer catastrophic brain injury in a bike crash).

He’s wearing a sleeveless jacket that once was a neon orange but is now faded. On the back of the jacket is a message for those on the highway around him. It reads “CAN YOU SEE ME NOW ASSHOLE?”

Now this looks like somebody who is grabbing life by the short hairs and making it exciting. Here’s a guy who is insulting everyone who sees him, just because he feels like it. He doesn’t care that he’s surrounded by 3,000-pound vehicles doing 75 m.p.h. that could turn him into road kill in seconds. He doesn’t even care that there should be a comma between “NOW” and “ASSHOLE”.

He’s a renegade. Period.

I’ll guess his name is Shep. Shep must be living the life of the adventurer. While the rest of us automatons are heading north into Charlotte for another day in the rat race, this guy is scooting through the maze of rush-hour traffic, oblivious to the despair around him.

I bet he’s on his way to the beach, or to a massive motorcycle rally out in the heartland, or maybe to California to kidnap a starlet. Wherever he’s going, it’s bound to be more exciting than the Westinghouse Boulevard off-ramp where I’m headed. (Even the Waffle House just around the corner can no longer bring a flutter to my heart).

Traffic slows to a stop as we approach the state line, giving Shep a moment to extend his legs to the ground, freeing up his hands. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a pack of cigarettes, and lights one up. Motorcycle travel isn’t dangerous enough for this guy; he’s angling for debilitating lung disease as well.

I want to be Shep. I want to tell the rest of the world to go screw itself. I want a life on the edge. I want to see America from the speeding seat of a Harley flying down Route 66.

Traffic again begins to move and I’m approaching the off-ramp that will lead to my office. Shep is still slightly ahead of me but should be able to put the pedal to the metal (or however it is that motorcycles work) as soon as he gets past this clogged exit. Then, there’ll be no stopping him.

Suddenly, I see that Shep is veering to the right. He cuts across two lanes, barely avoiding collision with a pickup truck, and with practically the same motion hocks a loogie onto the pavement. Wow! So audacious!

He seems to now be heading to the same exit I am. He’s joining the long line of commuters trying to turn left toward the sea of office parks on the southwest side of town. How can this be?

We all inch along Westinghouse, Shep and me and dozens of others. We clear an intersection that’s caused most of this backup, and next thing I know, I’m seeing Shep turn into the parking lot of Greif Brothers, a manufacturer of industrial packaging systems. It’s the employee parking lot. Shep is going to work, just like the rest of us pitiful drones!

My last view of this rebel-without-a-pause was as he unstraddled his hog, took off his helmet, stubbed out his cig, and entered the “Employees Only” entrance at the side of the Greif building.

He’s just another working stiff. How discouraging. How depressing. I might think my life is dull, but at least I am what I am, not some drill press operator pretending to be Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider.”

I just hope his shift supervisor is an asshole.

Rebel decides to take his job and love it

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5 Responses to “Fellow commuter not what he seems”

  1. deyank Says:

    Hmmm. If Shep was helmet-less when you first saw him, when did he put on his helmet to take it off when he arrived the the employee lot? Well, someone has to proofread and I am a celebrated picker of nits.

    • Beth Says:

      Funny thing about that. South Carolina has no helmet law, but North Carolina requires one. As Davis, and this biker, crossed the state line on their way to work, presumably the motorcyclist had to slap a lid on his noggin just as he crossed that state line.

  2. Ministry Fox Says:

    Where are the rebels and how do they finance their counter-culture lifestyle? The problem with opting out of the capitalist system is that it usually means loafing about at home and scabbing off your parents, or faffing around India ‘finding yourself’ and waiting for your parents to die so you can inherit their dosh.
    Not having an inheritance or anyone willing to sponsor my rejection of capitalism, I am forced to work. And I’m not happy about it!
    What really irks though are the pseudo rebels, like the Harley Brigade, who are about as rebellious as BMW owners.
    If someone out there is actually being a rebel, rather than playing the role of rebel, I have yet to meet him or her. All I see is working stiffs, chugging along; and every now and then, a poser on a big bike, with more attitude than aptitude. A pox on their punctures!

  3. Stentorphone Says:

    Rest assured that your “pedestrian topics” make the rest of us feel right at home.

    By the way-the photo you included is of Peter Fonda from the movie “The Wild Angels” (1966, director Roger Corman). When I was 13 years old, my buddy and I saw that flick 12 times. Seriously. We could recite ALL the dialogue.

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