Sunday, July 29, 2007

Country Bumpkin Charm

Each time I fly back into the big city, I sneak up on my old friend Tim. After surprising him with a traditional Inspector Clouseau / Kato maneuver, we drive around for Auld Lang Syne. While we hit most of our old haunts, the past we worship briefly resuscitates, through the well-regarded stories we share.

We exchange our lively anecdotes; some unspoken for decades, as I drive an old beater past the house where we dropped off a dropsy friend with a fine-feather we adorned in his cap, so his dad could get a good laugh at the boys out on the town. After a sentimental pizza, I hit the free-for-all freeway, where I drive in the slow lane. Tim says I drive like a country bumpkin. We come to a stop light and glance over at the racecar next to us, booming out rapid bass beats from its speakers. Tim doesn’t stare at the people, but I do, ‘cause I’m freshly fallen off the spud wagon, landed directly at Dulles Airport.

Fifteen years in Idaho changes my outlook. At the airport, I watched passengers disembark from a direct flight from Africa. Dozens of hugs were exchanged between friends and relatives who had not seen each other for ages. I felt like I could have spent half of my vacation, standing there witnessing this lively spectacle.

We pull over and Tim decides to drive for a while. There’s always a concern about someone sneaking up around you on this crazy freeway. We have a long discussion about how I’ve become accustomed to looking directly at the people in the wheels going by and start singing, “I really love to watch them turn.” I tell Tim, “Where I now hail from there’s a chance that I might actually know the people, could exchange a friendly glance with them and simply smile.”

Tim says, “Banholzer, you know better than to establish eye contact in the City. People are shot for less.” More of the roads have changed since my last visit. I say to Tim, “These pie in the sky ramps remind me of some of the elaborate mazes we used to construct for each other back in fourth grade, before computer codes entered schools.”

Now, I’m stumped. The freeway we’ve been on for twenty minutes is unfamiliar. Tim has it figured out though. He has planned for our elaborate loop to take us where he considers the country, but reminds me of Boise. We’re coming north thorough Clifton, Virginia, while a ceaseless stream of traffic travels south towards us. Most of the commuters look miserable on this hot day, as traffic appears to be flowing around 12 mph. At this rate we gain a good gape into each car, enough time for us react with quick three-word creative commentaries about how each passerby is feeling. It’s funny on our end, because we have no pressing deadlines on this day. Feeling fancifully free, with the knowledge that I’m soon bound back for Idaho, I start making vocal remarks to each passing car that has an open window, repeatedly yelling, “Hurry!” using unique speedy voices to try to match each commuter’s fate. Tim starts laughing so hard, that I think he’s going to wreck. After about two hundred of these, I finally lighten up, feeling that I’ve made my best impact statement, which is:

Tim, why don’t you move to Idaho?

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