I’m currently driving a 1998 Ford Explorer, a car that was caught in the pocket between a time when CDs were the shiniest music-storage format, and when the iPod bulldozed the market. There is no tape deck and no mp3 connectivity. I’m not about to lug all my CDs down from my apartment (one whole flight of stairs!), and the car might just eat them anyway. So I’ve been listening to the radio, which in Los Angeles means I change the station from rap, to hip hop, to top 40, to more hip hop, to classical (always on commercials), to top 40 before I give up with a loud, “Ugh, spare me!” The on/off button often gets stuck, so sometimes I’m forced to turn the volume all the way down and endure the ongoing disaster that is Los Angeles FM radio at the level of a whisper. It’s maddening.
Most of the time I do manage to turn the fucking radio off, and I end up driving in silence as a result, which leaves me with only my own pulsing brain to entertain myself. Often I sing songs that would shame me to sing in front of others (Mariah Carey, The Dixie Chicks, N’Sync, etc). Mostly though, I talk to myself… constantly. Rather, I talk to whomever I imagine to be there. Here’s how it breaks down:
Ex-boyfriend– It’s so weird how you needed a ride from the airport and none of your friends could pick you up! No, I’m not sorry we broke up, are you? Wow, really? No, I don’t want to give us another shot. My life is beautiful now, and you’re fatter than ever. Here, let me remind you why I was always right about everything…
That one jerk– Things are good for me, actually, thanks for asking. I’m working really hard, having fun with the kids, getting my Master’s, learning Kung Fu, dating a great guy, everything’s going right! Oh yeah, you have lost a lot of hair. I wasn’t going to say anything. Maybe it’s because you’re so depressed over your totally foreseeable divorce. You’re right, it was your fault.
Family member– Look, you can’t expect me to give you all my lottery winnings. I have charities to donate to, trust funds to set up, and I think half a million is more than enough to get you out of debt and on your feet. No, I don’t think a nanny would be a good idea. What will I do with all my free time? I’m thinking of doing watercolors and finishing my zobo novel.
Member of the press– Y’know, I saw the gun and I just reacted. There was no time to think. My natural instinct has always been to help others, it’s no surprise that I would move toward danger instead of away from it, especially with the kids around. I mean, that guy was already shooting, I had nothing to lose. Don’t get me wrong, a bullet to the shoulder hurts, but it’s a small price to pay for paralyzing some maniac with a semi-automatic. Yes, a flying side kick is something I learned to do over years of training, but I never thought I’d use it, especially on someone’s neck. I mean, what are the odds? No, I don’t plan to keep all the reward money for his capture. Most of it will go toward my parents’ mortgage, and my sister’s school costs. I’m a giver.
I’m not making this shit up. This is how my brain works. I’m a hero, a savior, the one that got away (and sometimes a superhero!). The car has become my fantasy pod. Car-travel has become a magical state that allows me to transform into a glowing, powerful, courageous ball of wealth-shedding light. And if all that fails to entertain me, or if traffic is especially stressful, I look at my rearview mirror and pretend that all the cars behind me are my armada, and we’re traveling in formation toward our future conquest! Yes, we may die, but the battle will be glorious. Stand tall, comrades! They will sing our songs and call us patriots of the motherland for a thousand generations!