There are few things more thought-provoking than an awkward carpool with a random, slight acquaintance who is bordering on being mostly a stranger. Not only is it cost-productive and energy efficient, hitching a ride from upstate to NYC is like performance theatre--you're given a shot to not only learn some new and foreign take on the world--but you're asked to participate and create your own as well. The best situation is with someone you have a slight memory of in your past, who has some personal/relational connections (so you're not silent the entire 3-hour trip), but is distant enough that you will probably not see or hear from them for another few years (making it easier to conscience a fib or two on your end).
With the onslaught of voyeuristic--scratch that, M.Snowe means--social networking sites, it's become more and more easy to set up these impromptu car-ride visitations. Such an acquaintance (we'll call him "John") made this very transportation-proposition to M.Snowe a day before she was scheduled to head back to NYC, on what promised to be a very noisy, uncomfortable train ride back, once more, into the concrete trenches. M.Snowe quickly agreed--she loves new adventures into the unknown lifestyle reaches of old grade-school classmates.
After exhausting all talk of other people we mutually knew (ex. "Did you hear she got pregnant straight out of high school?" or "My grandma knows your mum from getting her prescriptions filled at the Rite Aid on Eastern."), it was time for John to turn down the ACDC and actually make reference to himself, and vice-versa.
It should be said that John had come across our path before--randomly at a social occasion in Boston, dressed as a movie character on Halloween. At that point, the situation was assessed and we realized, while we wouldn't ever be "besties," John was decent and friendly, despite a slight, what you might call "post-frat sheen," (which has something to do with too many beers and a style of talking that is usually heard on Friday nights at the local college campus). But the kind spirit was enough to secure M.Snowe's calm acceptance of a ride back to the city. M.Snowe isn't always looking for comfort or like-mindedness. Sometimes she just wants to observe, and be entertained.
One observation from these random car-ride glimpses into other peoples' lives is this: Our lives are a lot more diverse, and weirder than we actually think they are. In other words, because we live with our situations everyday, they become normalized to us, even just through repetition or reinforcement. For instance: John relayed to me his apartment situation. In his apartment, he lives with his girlfriend. Normal enough. But also living in his apartment: his younger sister, and her boyfriend. Fine, but weird.
After this strange bit of information, John decided to call all his buddies in preparation for the big party he was attending later. One of his friends was named Cookie. This was a male lacrosse player, by the way. He referred to Cookie, while acknowledging the strangeness of the name, but never explained its origin. M.Snowe has to assume that Cookie isn't actually his real name, but was frustrated to have no back-story. She imagines that perhaps he has strange moles that resemble chocolate chips, or has unfortunate, doughy skin. Hopefully it's not just due to an affinity for the baked good. Perhaps it's better to live in the mystery. At least she knows that this name actually has traction in the real-world of this old classmate, outside her wildest comedic dreams.
The best part of the ride came as we approached the city, and were getting ever-nearer to the George Washington Bridge. The afternoon had faded from a partial sunlight to a completely clouded and eerily foggy mess--the cars zoomed in and out of sight, and the trees ahead were barely visible through the thick clouds of condensed air. John turned to me and said "have you ever seen the movie The Mist?" Surely, M.Snowe hadn't. He went on to recreate the story, complete with spoiler ending: The Mist was the sign that evil animal creatures would overtake you and eat you alive. The very end of the story follows a car of four people--a father, son, the father's lady-friend, and another random girl. The mists are about to overtake the car as it has run out of gas, and the father has a gun with only three bullets. Instead of seeing his son and the women eaten alive, he uses the three bullets to kill them, and then awaits his own death at the hands of the creatures in the mist. Only after the apparent euthanizing does the father realize it was not the creatures approaching, but the help they had been so sorely seeking throughout their journey away from the monsters--the father had killed all three unnecessarily. Given the morbid and hilarious nature of such a tale, M.Snowe found it relevant, if not to this car ride, then to the experience of carpools and similar possibly-uncomfortable situations as a whole. We are quick to kill things before we can even see the dangers. Foresight is one thing, blind fear of the unknown is quite another. So do yourself a favor and allow the foggy memories of a past time to take the wheel once and a while, literally or figuratively speaking. You never know what you might discover. Also, sometimes the terror is just plain funny.