For many people in this country, their daily commute is the worst part of their lives. The average time spent commuting is around a half hour, and if you live in parts of California or New York you can easily double that. And given the whining, apparently it isn’t a particularly pleasant drive.
Not me. I live 7.5 miles from town, which means that on a morning with heavy traffic, it takes me between eight and 10 minutes to get to work. And by heavy traffic I mean some mornings I meet one car, most mornings none. A far bigger hazard is the wildlife. Deer, pheasants, and geese abound, and just last week a beaver lumbered across the road in front of me. I told a friend about that encounter and how I’d luckily swerved to miss it. He wasn’t impressed. “Dude,” he said, “ next time hit the beaver. You can fix a pickup.” It turns out, he’s been struggling with that particular beaver cutting down trees in the yard and plugging culverts with willow branches.
County Highway 6 runs across Big Stone County for about 20 miles, from east to west. Other than one small town about in the middle, it is a straight, uninterrupted road. I drive it every day shortly after 5 a.m. Within the past month, I got a different pickup and a new phone, and the pickup and phone talk to each other. Musicwise, that means that any songs I have stored on the phone play on the truck radio - without any involvement from me.
In case you’re wondering, I have no idea how that works.
One day last week I stopped at the stop sign halfway to town, pulled my briefcase from behind the seat, and put it in front of it. That was evidently close enough for the phone to recognize the radio, and vice versa, because the radio started playing a song off my phone. I pulled onto the tar, the faint gleam of a pink sunrise in my rearview mirror. I'd barely straightened out the steering wheel when Bruce Springsteen came over the radio singing "Pink Cadillac."
It’s a great song, but it can be a problem if you're on a road where you might find a traffic cop.
That's not usually an issue on County 6 at 5:00 a.m.
I blew past a pickup I recognized. The driver was headed toward his job, pumping liquid manure on hog farms. I’ve done that job more than a few times, and I was never in a particular hurry to get to work, either. I went past two farmhouses with no lights on inside, and one where there was. After a couple of miles I looked down and was startled to see how fast I was going. I pulled into Clinton just as Clarence started playing his sax. The combination of the lights of the town and remembering that Clarence is now dead slowed me to a reasonable speed. Main Street was empty except for the cars of a few dedicated people working out at the fitness center. When I climbed out of the pickup, I heard the rumblings of equipment starting up at the fertilizer plant, but not much else.
I've never had a pink Cadillac, although I've often aspired to something like a '69 Jag XKE or a restored '57 Chevy. I live a placid and practical life in a very practical part of the country. I enjoy my early morning commutes through a quiet countryside. On the other hand, I do appreciate The Boss getting me into my cafe with just a touch of rebellion in my soul. Every life needs balance, and for me an empty road, a pink dawn in my rearview mirror, and The Boss on the radio is just the balance I need.