Night driving

A sudden fitness kick has plunged me head first into a pasttime I thought long in my past.

Night driving.

Since I couldn’t make time to go work out after work, I’ve started getting up at the ungodly time of 5:15 am in order to make it to the fitness center as it opens. This act leaves me plenty of time after my workout to head back home, shower, get dressed, kiss the family goodbye and head off to slave away at the keyboard.

It’s all brought me back to a year and a half ago, when I would work nights and drive home at 2 or 3 in the morning.

I called it night driving. The act of driving at night, the streets completely empty, cars sparse and traffic lights blinking red-red-red (or yellow-yellow-yellow, depending on the right of way.) Darkness enveloping the entire city, with only street lights and the glow from 24-hour convenience stores left to make sense of what is usually a busy thoroughfare.

The difference between the roads and traffic at this time – between 2 am and about 5:30 am – is as different as, well, night and day. Where streets are otherwise busy, packed with anger and overflowing with anxiety, at night they become sooting ribbons of relaxation – a gentle drive to end your day, or a refreshing burst of life at the beginning. During the day, engines and music and voices fill the air in multitudes. At night, it’s just the hum of your tires and the whistle of the cold wind as you roll your window down.

Leaving work at 3 am, back in my other life, I’d find myself unwinding, seemingly uncoiling down the hill, seeing the same lights lit up – the same houses filled with night owls; the same stores selling late-night gas; our two hospitals, competing against each other for the night sky with their green or blue neon, as if this comparison could help make the final decision on a health care need.

I’d get to experience it in college a lot as well – returning late from St. Cloud to Marshall, or driving home after a Thursday night show at First Avenue in order to make it back for a Friday morning class. You listen to the radio, faintly, and you think.

Thinking. Always. I’m glad to have that back in my life again. Just me, the car and the road, friends again. Traveling alone. Always thinking.

Lights out. It’s time to drive.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 9th, 2007