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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Driver

8 September 2005

Muncho Lake, BC

Canada is in its full fall glory, here at the northern terminus of the Rocky mountains. The birches, aspens, cottonwoods, and poplars have turned the landscape into a river of gold and rust and green that flows off grandly into the roadless distance. Such sights are wasted on a man alone. Beauty always confronts the solitary with his solitude. It makes him more alone.

It needs sharing.

O, I know about the loneliness of crowds. But yesterday it was the loneliness of solitude that bedeviled me, the loneliness of being far too far from anyone. Or at least anyone I know.

It comes out in little things, like gripping the steering wheel too hard, or driving a little too fast, a little too long.

Listening to music I don't even like.

Talking to goats on the side of the road.

Accosting the occasional caribou.

Periodically I just have to pull over, get a grip on myself, as opposed to the wheel, and ask the question: what's the hurry? After all, at the beginning of the trip, this solitude was what I was seeking. It was a source of strength, and freedom, and satisfaction.

What has changed?

Well, for one thing, I am bored. Boredom is a principal component of loneliness. Sometimes it is the boredom of nothing to do. And sometimes the boredom of too much to do - - that you'd rather not do.

Humor is a help. Dragging a rattletrap trailer across the continent is an intermittent cure. Something is always falling off, or apart. Busy hands busy the mind also. But right now everything is working just fine.

Things are going just a little too well for me to be happy. Guess I could break something, just for the hell of it. Where did I put that hammer?

I could eat. That works great for an hour or so. Many a neurasthenic has found his depression lifted by a sandwich.

But no. Think I'll skip that. Too temporary. Matter of fact, I've made a recent vow not to eat until I'm truly hungry. This may seem an odd sort of diet, but it has melted away dozens of pounds in the past.

Psst. Hey, wanna hear the secret of weight control? If you don't stick things in your mouth, you lose weight. That's it. Simple, huh? There are obnoxious people in the pulp non-fiction market who have made fortunes offering no better advice than that.

Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

And you can get bored with boredom, too. Turn depression into irritation, and you might piss yourself off enough to do something about it. Entire careers have been launched by little more.

Exercise helps. It's hard to be bored once you run out of breath. How sweet life can seem, no? With the addition of just a leetle more oxygen? The right moment can make water better than beer.

But my beat-up body won't cooperate. When I try to run, my knees swell up like knobby grapefruit. I am a born walker. But three days ago I turned my left ankle, and it's been hobble, hobble, hobble ever since. It's getting better, but that pretty much limits the walking cure, at least for now.

And then there's self-pity, of course. Though whether this is a cure or just another durn disease is a matter for conjecture. Like kicking a rock real hard, to take your mind off a toothache. But certainly I could wail and gnash my teeth, cursing the risible fate that gave me mortality and consciousness on the same morning, berating the bitter drink that men were born for.

Yas, yas. Pity the poor garrulous dustbin godlet on cruise control. Ah, but pulling out my hair is problematic nowadays, and nobody likes a whiner. Least of all himself.

So then, what to do, what to do? What to do, if all these cures do not avail?

Why, there's the talking cure. Reaching out to touch someone, through a minor miracle of modern science. Like now.

Which seems to have done the trick.

Yes. I've had my ration of coffee, and then some. The sky is blue. The sun is bright. There's an open road before me. There's even a trickling breeze about this morning, with just enough winter in it to make me want to paw the ground. There's plenty of gas in the tank, and all eight tires are at just the perfect pressure.

Yesss. It worked. Thanks.


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