Tacos and Traffic
“Are you having a good day?” She said.
I turned inward, looking for those thoughts and feelings that might cue me to reply with what was true. There are no shortage of thoughts or feelings frolicking inside of that ephemeral container I call myself these days. “I” was there for a minute, like some dazed hippie just wandering into the drum circle, trying to orient to all of the sound and light and motion.
The initial sense was just an appreciation for the fullness of that celebration, and I lingered long. Long enough.
Laughter rang out. The cheerful kind, not too hard, not callous, not uneasy, laughter that says, I understand. “So, no then.” Smiling.
The image and memory of an old friend, Brooke Medicine Eagle, flickered through my mind. “If it’s not a loud and resounding YES, then it’s a no.” She once said.
“I guess.” I said, though still considering and reflecting…
I used to agree with Brooke’s wisdom on this point, universally. I noticed, wondering, if I still felt that certain about the nature of yes and no, good and bad. I by no means mean to reject these constructs, only…
We were headed south on the five freeway, just a little after 4 PM, traveling from the central to the southern part of the largest county in the country. The traffic was definitely picking up for the evening “rush.”
I had just come from visiting my dentist for a tooth cleaning and inspection. The diagnosis was clean and the prognosis good, but more than that, Carey and his wife Victoria are a really special find. Whenever I visit we always have a lovely chuckle and friendly banter, often rounding our shared love of meditation, but generally just orienting to the goodness in life. Today, playfully, we let the sounds of Aquarius from the 5th Dimension echo throughout the practice. The doctor smiled. “This has been one of my all-time favorite songs.” Grinning…
So that was nice.
Earlier in the day I had been to visit a Medi-Cal estate planning attorney whose insights were rich fodder for my process of disambiguation. Further, we were just driving away from a delicious and simple Mexican fare we found easily on the roadside.
Hunger sated, and appreciating present company, I said, recounting those last few items, “and I get to spend some time with you, so pretty good, yes.” And smiled. It was true.
Naturally, the traffic picked up and we eventually found our way into the High Occupancy Vehicle lane. A little further along and even that path was slowing.
In certain moments, certain technologies can feel like mana from heaven. I consistently feel that way about the Autopilot feature from Tesla. While it works at any speed, in really slow traffic it is a virtual godsend. You do have to mind the wheel, and in all honesty should probably well keep minding the road, but overall it really does do the driving. In fairness to Mr. Musk, the admonition to keep minding the road probably says more about the value of maintaining a conscientious awareness of things than the actual safety of the technology to navigate traffic.
My off-the-cuff sense of things is that one really is increasing the general atmosphere of safety on the road when engaging Tesla Autopilot, and we really are at the threshold of fewer accidents, lower stress, and better social hygiene with the advent of this new luxury. Today we really tested it.
Caitlin had run in for us at Primos Mexican food, collecting the aforementioned delicious burrito and some shrimp tacos for herself. It was my own hunger that had called the stop and Caitlin had graciously helped me consume half of my burrito right then and there in the parking lot. Her own fish tacos, she left in the bag, ostensibly waiting to be consumed at home.
But here we were, traffic nearly stopped, the routing software indicating another 40 minutes ago. That was enough, what was this technology for, if not this?
With just a little encouragement for me, Caitlin left Mr. Musk in charge and turned her attention for a moment to the backseat, returning promptly (to be fair she never totally left 😉 triumphant with tacos in hand.
One thing that stands out in my experience of quadriplegia is the shift in capacity (in contrast to the time prior to quadriplegia) to do physical things for others. 17 years into this particular flavor of the journey, I’m comfortably resolved with that absence, and as many have affirmed, there are other ways to be of service. Nonetheless, traveling with a hungry friend, I would much prefer to take the wheel and let them enjoy a meal.
[Yes, I’m just going to leave that there.]
The other piece of this is traffic. When I was driving, gridlock traffic never bothered me. I would either just relax and enjoy the ride, or treat it like a game of “get ahead.” I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone else as indifferent as I to the phenomenon, not to say they don’t exist, just that I’ve never noticed it in any one I’m with. Again, this would be another place I would prefer, in a past life, to step in.
So it was with some great delight that I could appreciate Caitlin’s ability to simply spread out a little picnic in the driver seat and focus on the food. We quickly noticed that by some software update or other grace, the time delay before the wheel would require input to ensure the driver’s attention was substantially extended. In fact, Caitlin was able to finish nearly the whole burrito before the car asked for any input at all.
I wondered briefly, and hoped repeatedly that some others in the traffic might notice this lovely lady just relaxing and munching away on her dinner while the car navigated the gridlock on our behalf. I don’t know if they did, but my enjoyment of it was a meal in itself.
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…