Saturday, May 23, 2009

Windows Down

It’s a small minority, the lot of us. And you’d never notice us until you’re one of us. Until you’re driving around, windows down, in the middle of a hot Florida day. That’s when this inconspicuous group of drivers becomes an unspoken fellowship of human beings.

I joined the ranks of these drivers today. Neal and I switched cars. His car is out of freon, or so we think, and we just haven’t gotten around to dropping the car off at Southern Comfort.

There’s a story behind every car with windows down. Because in this weather, no one does it by choice. Nice cars—are you too busy, like us, to fix your AC? Old cars—was the AC the first to go? Trucks—are you just reminiscent of when you had a Jeep Wrangler? Compact cars—are you fantasizing that this is your convertible?

Along with the stories, there’s the shared experiences. The salty perspiration dripping down your lower back, trapped between your shirt and the car seat. The sweat creeping down your thighs, increasing exponentially due to the heat held captive by your seat. If you’re a woman, your hair is now in a ponytail, no matter how much time you spent styling it before you left the house. If you’re a guy, you’re asking yourself if you remembered deodorant before you left the house. If you’re a guy, it probably doesn’t matter if you remembered deodorant before you left the house.

And then there’s the complicated issue of Windows-Down-Etiquette. If you’re listening to the radio when you stop at an intersection, should you turn it down? Is there a level that’s acceptable for your music to be shared on the open air ways? Do you even want everyone to know what you’re listening to, or do you resort to middle school insecurities, and fear that you’ll be judged? What about eye-contact at a stoplight?

This morning, at Countryway and Linebaugh, I was stopped in the left turn lane. Joe Redneck happened to be on my immediate right, another Windows-Down-Driver. Joe whistled. Maybe to a tune in his head, I reasoned. Then, Joe blasted some country song about red lipstick and heels and some other indiscriminate redneck lyrics. I stared straight ahead, doing my best to look deep in thought, distracted by important things in my head. Or, important things down the road. I didn’t like being so conspicuous to a perfect stranger, only 7 feet away.

It’s really all a game, you know. This idea of inconspicuousness. And busy-ness. And I-don’t-notice-you-ness.

It’s only when you join the ranks of Windows-Down-Drivers that you’re forced to come to terms with the reality that Others Exist.

When the light turned green, I peeled off, grateful for the blast of humid air. Grateful to be returning to the land of anonymity.

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