I’ve made up my mind–home really is the place where you have your own bed. Set aside the view from our apartment, the endless things to do, the relaxing walks by the river–those are all things we would enjoy on vacation. It’s our bed that I look forward to returning to. I find it odd that after 40+ years of living in Columbus, moving my bed makes me feel like I’ve moved my home. Leaving behind good friends and the opportunity to see those friends makes me sad, but in a world where I can text, Facetime, Skype, Facebook, email, and call from various devices and at no extra charge, it’s hard to feel like I’m really leaving anyone behind. It’s the bed that calls me home.
Once on the road and thinking about sleeping in my own bed, I find myself anxious to get there. Unfortunately, the road isn’t so cooperative. North of Cincinatti, we are snarled in a traffic jam that brings us to a dead stop. I make good use of the time (since Pat is driving) and pull out my new Verizon MiFi. I manage to get online and get a bunch of work done as efficiently as if I’m in the office. Even Sametime (Lotus instant messaging) works flawlessly. Pat decided to get off the highway and we drive through small towns trying to find a way around the traffic jam. My wireless broadband hotspot keeps me connected through the whole thing. After spending about and hour and half in the traffic and another half an hour half lost and working our way back to the freeway, we once again cruise along at highway speeds. I continue working for a couple more hours with childlike amazement that I can instant message and email and surf uninterrupted as we speed along the highway. Having worked in telecom for many years prior to my current job, I know too much about what can go wrong to not be impressed by the technological advancements that allow for this moment in time when virtual presence can be maintained from virtually anywhere.
Pat gets tired of driving and we change seats once we make it into Kentucky. It’s the first time I’ve gotten behind the wheel in nearly 3 weeks. I set the cruise control and enjoy the feeling of driving for several hours. I am surprised that it feels no different. I don’t know why this surprises me–I have gone for weeks without driving many times in my life. Years ago, when I used to have a job that involved traveling internationally for weeks at a time, I would go without driving for as long as 6 weeks. I am reminded of a trip to Italy when, after having been there for 3 weeks, I rented a car since it was over Easter and the colleague who normally drove me was on holiday for a week. Driving in Italy definitely felt strange. The last day my colleague was still with me, we decided I should drive to the office so I would learn the route (since I never seem to pay enough attention as the passenger). When I went to enter the freeway for the first time, I started accelerating on the entrance ramp, preparing to merge. My colleague started screaming, “No, Dianne! No! Stop!” as I looked over my left shoulder for a gap in traffic (which I couldn’t find). When I turned to see why he was screaming, there was a concrete wall dead ahead of me. I screeched to a halt just in time to avoid slamming us into unforgiving concrete. My colleague was sweating. This was my second trip to Rome and even after having ridden with him daily for a combined 6 weeks, I had failed to realize that Italian entrance ramps aren’t designed for merging. I’d always wondered why he stopped before trying to jump into traffic moving at a high rate of speed! I quickly learn how to go from a standstill to moving into traffic going 80 KPH in an under-powered sub-compact Italians call a “medium” sized car.
But this is not like driving for the first time in a foreign country. In fact, even the things that annoy me remain the same. I am particularly annoyed by people who change speeds dramatically. This phenomena is heightened by the fact that I am on cruise control in a vehicle with a powerful enough engine to make it up the hills going through the Kentucky mountains without much change in speed. Others seem to slow down 10 MPH or more going up the steeper hills and speed back up coming down. I understand when trucks carrying heavy loads crawl slowly up hills, but when a car whose average speed is only slightly slower than mine keeps passing me on the downhill only for me to have to pass them again on the uphill, I get annoyed. Perhaps this annoys me because I want to feel like I’m making rapid progress towards home and the repeated passing of the same vehicle gives me the sensation of going backwards. I do not do backwards well. Ask Pat. He frequently teases me about my unwillingness to take a route that includes backtracking, to go back for something I’ve left behind, or to change my mind once having set a plan into motion. It’s one of life’s lessons I retake on a daily basis, yet I seem to always end up in the remedial class.
We make it to Knoxville before I find myself growing too sleepy to drive safely. After a pit stop at Burger King (see previous post), Pat takes the wheel for the final stretch home. I try talking to him to keep him awake, but quickly find myself slumping over, my head drooping towards the window. Each time I reawaken, I imagine what my slack face must look like to drivers that we pass–head bobbing, loose jaw, closed eyes. I wonder if I look like I’m dead. I try my best to stay awake, knowing that Pat is fighting sleep too, but I suspect my parents used to take me for car rides on nights I couldn’t sleep and the feel of being on the road well past my bedtime still hypnotizes me. I tell Pat to stop and sleep for a bit if he can’t stay awake. He says we’re almost home; it would be weird to stop now. I say, “better weird than dead.” He laughs, which energizes him for a few minutes at least.
We do make it home safely. Tired and groggy, we pull our bags out of the car and make our way into the lobby of our building. I enter the access code four times before it works, giving me a moment of panic that we’ve forgotten the code and we’ll be stuck outside sleeping in our van after all. We make it to the apartment, drop our things, brush our teeth and fall into bed otherwise un-groomed. Ahh! The bed! It is good to be home.