February 15, 2006
Time does move faster, the more of it you put behind yourself. I’m sure of this now. I feel it not just in the passage of weeks and months but even in the movement of hours, or parts of hours. I can drive ten hours on some old freeway I’ve traveled dozens of times and still find it interesting, find it passing quickly, all without the diversion of radio or recorded music. (A subversive admission, I know, but true nevertheless.)
Some of us could use a pill that would slow time down. It’s not comfortable to find oneself hurtling ahead at an accelerating pace, into whatever disabilities and senilities lie in wait. Perhaps the drug companies could look into this. Much effort has been put into making time speed up, allowing a person to ride quickly through a rough patch of pain. And when it comes to back spasms, I’m all for that; if I can get zombied out for a few hours when things are ripping back there, so much the better. This has to be especially so for folks in serious bigtime pain.
But when things are right and all systems are greased and working, I’d like to have life move at a slower pace. I’d like to have an hour or two pass without suddenly realizing Good grief is it three o’clock already? Sh*t! I’d rather look at the clock and think Only ten o’clock - seems like it would be later than that. How terrific! Of course that very thing drove me out of my suit-and-tie office career those decades ago; the days at work dragged like days in school used to drag. Couldn’t wait for five o’clock. The minute hand moved like it was rusting up, getting slower, grinding nearly to a stop. But now, if there were some drug that could bring that old slow-motion mood back, I’d be all over it. It’d be a real boon to those of us who are standing here with our pantlegs flapping in the breeze from the time train whipping by.
But much as I’d like a time slowdown pill, I wouldn’t blame the drug companies if they never took another chance on finding anything, the way everybody seems to hate’em already. You can picture the lawsuits: “Couple arrive three days late for package flight to Fiji – sue Merck. ‘We thought it was Tuesday, and here it was Friday. It wasn’t our fault; we were on the pill.’ Northwest Airlines was named an accessory, for leaving on time.”
If they did develop it, the warning on the box of GoSlo, or Slozone, or whatever they’d call it, might read: “Side effects may include occasional boredom or impatience, mild aggravation, spasmodic restlessness and lack of punctuality; intermittent disquietude or agitation, and sporadic peevishness.” I don’t expect this idea to go anywhere but if it does, the least they can do is pay me a penny a bottle for the idea. Otherwise I might have to file my own whiny lawsuit.
But does anyone know how fast time passes for, say, an adult Mayfly? Does that two days seem to be a lifetime to them? Does the fly think, “Well, it’s really been quite the trip. Sure was amazing, but I’m all worn out. Think I’ll just fly down over there by that trout. . .” Mayflies are the oldest of winged insects; been around since Carboniferous times, 300 million years and then some, and whether they care about time or not, it seems to be working for them.
We might be the only ones who have the luxury of feeling that time is passing too swiftly. Maybe the other creatures aren’t so concerned. There’s an old joke, you’ve probably heard it, about a man driving by a big apple tree and seeing a sweat-soaked farmer holding a grown pig in his arms, straining to raise it up so it can eat apples from the low branches. It bothers the guy so much he stops, backs up, gets out, walks over and says: “Wouldn’t it save a lot of time if you just picked the apples off the tree and gave them to the pig?”
The farmer looks at him from under his old cap, breathing hard. “Time?” he says, “Time? What is time to a pig?”
So, as with most questions I wonder about, it’s already been covered. Anyway, this last expedition started at the truck rental yard again, like they do, and went about five miles until a thumping from above got so loud I turned around and went back. Took the shop foreman for a ride and he guessed it might be under the hood so we stopped and looked and all was tight. Went back to the shop and got a mechanic, and it sounded like an underhood problem to him until I asked him to put his head on the dash and look up, and sure enough, the heavy rubber gasket surrounding the windshield was flopping around like a beached eel up there.
They glued it all up and I left for Lafayette: the Indiana one, not the Louisiana. Nor any of the other Lafayettes in Alabama, California, Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, nor any of the three Lafayettes in Ohio. Not the LaFayette in Georgia or in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island or Texas. And of course not the Lafayette Counties of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi or Missouri.
It’s a sweet downtown there in west central Indiana, on the banks of the Wabash; like a trip back to the turn of the last century, a marvelous airy central stone courthouse on a city square surrounded by masonry buildings built solid and never torn down. Cleaned up and reused, and how sensible they were to ignore that curse of American architecture, the 1960s federal madness they called Urban Renewal. We did a good show there at Purdue, highlighted by dobro wizard Jerry Douglas, and the next day I left for Nashville.
A friend told me to look for a guitar player there named Guthrie Trapp and I went down to lower Broadway on Sunday night and stopped first at Roberts Western Wear. Whoever the young man was playing the Telecaster there was hot as a pistol; at the end of the tune the singer said “. . . and let’s hear it for Guthrie over there on the guitar.” The very reason I like to stop in that fair city.
The banging wasn’t all that was wrong with the truck and I took it to their shop in Nashville to cure the still-leaking windshield, and they found the fuel filter nearly clogged and the coolant system low. I didn’t even mention the jammed seat belt reel and the all-static radio, the broken door lock, the whistling door gasket or the faulty windshield washers; no big deal, they’re all like that. It moved the trailer down the road, and lately I’ve been settling for that.
Wednesday I left for Miami, stopped in Gainesville, Florida; called a reservation number for motels that said they had parking for a semi. They sent me to one at the top of a hill, which made me suspicious. I stopped at the bottom, hiked up, and of course there wasn’t room for a big truck up there. She told me I could park down there where I was, so I got my room key and walked back down, dropped the trailer, went for dinner at the Longhorn by the mall, came back and hooked up to the trailer, shut the truck off. Trudged back up the hill with my gear, found someone else in my room. Big mistake by the desk lady. Got another key, went around the back and up the stairs to 414 and found I couldn’t get on the internet. And there was no remote for the television. Hey, no big deal. It was warm and dry in there.
In Miami the hotel room wasn’t ready so they gave me a handicapped room, which was fine but there wasn’t a single flat surface in the bathroom except the floor. Called the front desk for a small table or chair to set my shaving bag on. Three hours, and they couldn’t find one thing in the whole hotel so they finally gave me a different room. No problem. I was into the rhythm of it, and I wasn’t at all surprised when there was a lone car left in the parking lot the next morning at the loading dock of the amphitheater, blocking our access. They called a tow truck but before it got there the stage crew came out and bounced the car ninety degrees to the left, and now I had room. Another problem solved by brute force and ignorance, and a bunch of little problems can be a good thing; sort of a statistical inoculation against the one big problem. Like small earthquakes, releasing pressure.
All this aggravation and I was happy as a clam. On the way home I stopped south of Atlanta in time to watch the Super Bowl, enjoyed every minute of it, including the commercials and Aretha doing the national anthem. Couldn’t get on their wireless and couldn’t buy a bottle of beer, but that was okay. It was back in Indiana, just short of Chicago, that they finally got to me. Called that same motel reservation service and got more bad directions and ended up on a narrow road heading out into open fields, with a small sign about a mile in that said: “Load Limit 5 Tons.” Lit up with those clearance lights on that forbidden passageway, I just knew every cop within 5 miles could see me out there, and I would be dead meat.
Time slowed way down. After a few long miles I finally reached a paved crossroad at a traffic light and called the motel, told her the problem and she said, “Well, you’ve got to turn around and come back ––” and that did it. I said, “I just told you, dammit, I can’t drive this truck on that road!! Are you listening? Can you hear me?” We got it sorted out, but they had found my Achilles’ heel. Every now and then, if you drive one of these things, you will find yourself in Trucker Hell.
I got up at 4:00 AM and breezed through Chicago at sixty, running with all the crazy ambitious go-getters who are on the road at five in the morning. Good company, they were, and I was glad to be among them. Time went by fast again.