driving it home

Decided yesterday to drive back from the lab via a new route for no other reason than three right turns sounded better than three left turns. The weather was perfect late spring morning, the nine rolls I’d shot the night before looked good, and I was happy even though I’d not scanned them yet to be sure. Shooting film lacks instant feedback, which is professionally frustrating but usually personally satisfying. When a client is waiting, I’d like a little security, but my intuition about whether a photo works or not is getting better.

I passed a business letterboard that said:


… the business was a car wash.

I stopped at Jack in the Box and there was a FedEx driver there on break. As we waited for our orders he said “How you doin'” and I realized he delivers to my house. A hundred stops a day, no inbound FedEx to me for nearly a month, nothing for months before that, and he remembers me. I felt guilty for having so many recent visits from UPS. I am mentally unprepared for feeling rooted. I’d never lived in a city this small before and I didn’t think I ever would. When I got my driver’s license in this state I thought: no way will I still be living here when it expires. It expires next month. I own a house here now. (Or about three square feet of it, anyway.)

In front of the old folks’ home at the end of my street an elderly man was out walking his little dog; the man’s electric scooter was pretty slow, but the dogs little legs made him look like he was really moving.

I slowed down for a teenager with a skateboard under his arm to cross, but he waved me on. On the radio was a piano and cello cover of, of all things, an old Tears for Fears song:

children waiting for the day they feel good
happy birthday, happy birthday
and i feel the way that every child should
sit and listen, sit and listen
went to school and i was very nervous
no one knew me, no one knew me
hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson
look right through me, look right through me
and i find i kind of funny
i find it kind of sad
the dreams in which i’m dying
are the best i’ve ever had

The entire route suddenly froze into a mental photograph, including the last two blocks I’d not yet driven, because they will be the same as the last time I drove them; including walking into my house, because it is the same door as last time I walked into my house; and my one year old daughter standing at her toybox in the living room, turning to smile at me, point and say “ha da!”, because at this time of day that is always where she is. She lets go of the toybox with one hand so she can point, and this makes her wobble a bit.

Fifteen minutes and four miles and the crisp spring air and the validation of the previous night’s work and the song and the tree of the month and the little dog’s legs and my daughter’s smile and wobble all somehow compressed into a single image; it was a very strange feeling. I guess something deep inside said that even if you are mentally unprepared for feeling rooted, click the shutter.


This was published on 26 May 2004.
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