Friday, August 30, 2013

Time Travel In The Dark

You ever notice driving at night feels a lot like time travel? That if you were to be denied access of all time keeping devices or GPS tracking the time and distance traveled at night would become almost impossible to gauge.

3am on a Friday morning I leave the hotel on the south side of Little Rock and head down to my car. As I pass the lobby, I am greeted by the night auditor. A thin woman on the north side of 40 with her blonde pageboy hairstyle she is odd in the way all low wage 3rd shift workers are. She is petulant and blindly happy all at the same time. Her posture standing at odds with her facial demeanor and her voice contrastingly different from you would expect.

As I find myself standing in front of her with my suitcase beside me and a computer bag on my shoulders, she asks me "are you checking out"?

"Please". I say

"Room"? She asks

I give her my room number and she thumbs through a stack of checkout slips in front of her. As she gets to the bottom of the pile her brow creases and a sturdy frown encompasses her face. As she looks back up at me the frown dissipates like smoke. A smile that never reaches her eyes greets me when we are again eye to eye.

"214"? She asks me again.

I nod and as her head drops I see the smile drop without hesitation and the frown take over her features. Her body language begins to take on a more aggressive appearance. Her hands no longer paging casually through the stack of paper in front of her. Her legs while crossed when she began now uncross and her shoulders square up to the desk. Halfway through her second pass she finds my checkout slip and her instant, aggressive demeanor falls away and becomes more feminine and languid as she hands me the checkout slip.

"Here you go, " she says.

"Thanks".

Outside the air is close and confining. The heat of the August day is rising from the black asphalt like an outdoor convection oven. A light breeze from the north pushing the heat past me, but doing little to dissipate the claustrophobic humidity. The humidity is close and so oppressive it gives off the smell of an eminent afternoon rain shower.

My gaze drifts skyward looking for the telltale signs of rain. But the moonless sky is clear. Pinpoints of distant stars protruding from the heavens like the light from a distant lighthouse. Near 30000 feet I see the unmistakable blinking lights of a plane soaring across the heavens.

I put my bags in the trunk and set out for a 24hr Fedex store just a few miles away. Frequent travel has taught me the valuable lesson of not checking bags. I have plenty of time for this stop. My flight leaves in 6 hours and with the shortstop for luggage drop off and a gas station top off I will get the Memphis in plenty of time.

30 minutes later, my chariot is pointed East towards Tennessee. I like this time of night. Seeing the sun beginning its ascent into the sky always gives the feeling of being reborn. Its now 4am and traffic is light, mostly truck drivers.

With the window down and the radio turned up I listen to blues and jazz. My mind begins to clear and I start to come down off of the stress from the past week.

The miles roll by and time becomes distant. The dark sky keeps me in a cocoon of timelessness. Before long the first 100 miles are behind me and yet I feel as if I just left Little Rock. The lights of roadside distractions come and go. The radio plays on and every song feels like it is the first.

At 5:30 the horizon begins to transform from an endless black horizon to the amber beginnings of daybreak. And before I know it amber turns to first traces of a yellow sky. I start to see features on the horizon the night sky had blanketed in a cocoon of inky blackness.

Somehow another 100 miles have fallen behind me and the morning sky has given way to full daylight. The egg and hammers have now joined the trucks and state patrol vehicles.

And just like that I have traveled in time to another land the 200 miles behind me feeling like it was never there.

You can't beat time travel in the dark.

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