Meditations of a Commuter - Stories

California Route 880

The roar and whine of overworked engines big and small, daredevil cyclists riding between full lanes of cars, sleek and cocky sports cars hopping lanes at will, barreling tractor trailers like gigantic, fast moving tanks on the Iraqi desert. 880’s sides are scattered with left-over fast food wastes, cracked and abused plastic hubcaps, soft drink cans smashed flat, broken beer bottles, shoes, plastic bags stuffed with rotting waste, bits of broken glass, pieces of discarded furniture, and pieces of metal and rubber left behind from hastily removed accidents.

No talk radio banter or relaxing CD music with this commute, just the raw and hard edged heavy metal of the road: zooming, buzzing, rumbling, screaming, whizzing, screeching, and roaring, like some cacophonic and lengthy riff of Eddie’s axe in full flight. The steering wheel is clasped, anxiously, tensely, determinedly, and squeezed tightly to brace as well as balance. Tension and aggression are in the taut faces of those oncoming, passing or passed. One person’s wild change of lane is like some sudden modulation by Megadeath. The relentless momentum pulsates forward like some primitive ostinato from Igor’s spring rite.

No gentle Mozart here. No acoustical guitars and gentle lutes with fingers plucking some Elizabethan tune, just cold metallic sounds emanating angrily and defiantly from cheap and overused speakers. A high screech of tires sounds like an overblown piccolo at point blank range. No mellow dulcimers here, just high volume distortion and feedback. No gentle erasing, rather fingers scraping down the blackboard. No operatic pianissimos, instead heavy metal screams. No soft strings, but aggressive percussion on steroids, played defiantly out of time and out of tune. There is no sky, no rolling hills, no wetlands, no Hayward, no San Leandro, just the road and everybody on it. Hold on and roar forward.