I get on the highway and, as luck would go, I end up behind a vehicle doing barely the speed limit, on rare occasions, but mostly and unmercifully below. The road is hilly and curved and unsafe to pass. I think to myself “What the hell, what are you doing?”. The vehicle is ancient but bright and shiny. Maybe a Cadillac. But before I can get in another thought I hear this roar of a tremendously large mosquito and to my left comes a flash of light which I quickly detect as an orange, 2-litre, Honda Civic, no muffler, music blaring out of the open right window, and some punk poking his head out and shouting something like “Muck Doo” before disappearing in the opposing lane over the next quiet hill. So I move on.
I begin to tap my fingers on the steering rim. What else to do at five kilometers an hour below the speed limit. Who is this imbecile?
As a driving instructor I begin to do the things one should never do. I begin to mind wander. The taillights ahead of me begin to fade away and the image of Socrates’ head appears saying “Know thyself”. And I recall that this is how I began. And then another image appears. It is Sigmund Freud, standing with a flashlight in the darkness and pointing his finger along a dark path that he has illuminated. But once I follow his advice and step on the path, he turns off his flashlight. Then begins a process of numerous stubbings of my toe and curses as I wander along the path in total darkness, encountering another something unexpected. And then the path disappears and the taillights re-emerge. How long was I day-dreaming? Socrates indicated what I should study and Freud showed me the path. Neither were very helpful once I began that journey.
This day-dreaming is dangerous, and I of all people should know that. But at five kilometres below the speed limit, and a substantial distance to go, this is killing me. Back to taping my fingers on the steering wheel. Music, music might help.
So I turn on the radio. There I encounter The Celebrity making the speech of all speeches. His hippocracy is truly genuine. I’ve seen him before. The tail-lights fade out again as an image appears of the man and his speech. His name is “His excellency, the right-honourable, most-important, knower-of- all-things, Majesty of all things visible and invisible…He wears a tunic or a uniform. It is bespeckled with many shiny things, mostly medals. He has so many medals he even has one on his shoe – it announces his presence like a cowbell. Once again the image fades out and a new one appears. It is of a hippo in a Canadian lake. I wonder what a hippo could be doing in such a cold environment. Then back to the taillights and reality.
I came out on this Corona Virus day to do my essential grocery shopping and this is what I get. Five kilometres an hour below the speed limit. Who is this imbecile? I finally get closer to my destination. A small grocery shop with fancy things and no line-ups. That’s why I came. But to my amazement that Cadillac, or whatever it is, signals into the same parking lot. My God, is this my day or what? There are only two parking spots available, one behind the other. The Caddy pulls into the one closer to store marked “Handicap” and I pull in behind. Handicap, right. It’s probably someone taking advantage of the only parking spot left, and a pull-through at that. So now I get to see this imbecile. This moron who has taken up so much of my precious time. I’m going to sit in my seat until that imbecile comes out. I want to see who this is. And I wait and wait. Give me a break.
Finally a door begins to creak open. Slowly. A foot is seen, and the bottom of a long skirt to the ankle. A grey material. And out comes the rest of the body. Slowly. It is an old and tired frame. It is a grey-haired woman with glasses and a worn grocery bag. Once outside she pauses, looks both ways, as if she thinks she will be run over in the high-speed parking lot. And then my cynical self melts away. Ah, revelation. She is elderly.
Now I understand. She has stepped onto the stage for all to see. I am also near to that stage where I will be standing before a judgmental crowd with nothing important to say. I too will one day be the old man whose past means nothing to the future.
I follow the old woman into the store. I wander for some time then select the essential thing that I came for and then turn to the checkout. And there is that old lady again, in front of me. In the short space of time she has selected a bunch of stuff that weighs down on her frail frame and seems to be uncomfortable. For once she has to wait like I do. The line-up is short but it is still a line-up. I ask “Can I hold that for you?” She turns to me slowly with a small dry smile and nods appreciatively. We begin to talk.
The woman explains that she rarely goes out except when she has to. It’s not the Corona but it’s a fact of old age. Here 85-year-old husband is at home, mostly immobile. She goes out to get groceries once in a while and she gets as much as she can hold but she can’t hold a lot. So she is appreciative for my help. Her eyesight is not good, and her hearing is worse. But her groceries are essential to herself and her husband. They have lived in their home of 60 years. With each word my thoughts wander again as I recall my “imbecile” thoughts. Who is the true imbecile?
When we reach the checkout I help her unload. A large batch of potatoes, a cabbage, a vegetable with a “30% Off” sticker. And her cost is $11.05. She already had it in her hand before being asked.
I then place my item on the belt. It is one bag of “Miss Vickies” potato chips. The old lady looks at the bag. The cashier looks at the bag. I look at the bag. This was my essential item on this Corona day.
I walk with the old lady back to her car and place her purchases in her back seat. She smiles and says thank you before disappearing into the old fancy car. I get in my car and wait. She finally pulls out and I pull out after her. We both pull out together back onto that hilly, curvy highway. I could pass but I won’t. I feel honoured and privileged to be escorted all the long way home at five kilometres an hour below the speed limit.
I just stubbed my toe into something new and it hurt. But it woke me out of my silly day dreams.