Ridin’ with the top down

Posted by kc on April 26, 2012 in My life and times |

This is a good day.

I’m having an eye exam today, first time in a year and a half and first time since I was diagnosed with diabetes. That’s a little scary. I have sister, younger, with diabetes and she can barely see now.

But it’s still a good day.

I’m taking the long ride up to the office — I go out of my way when I really like the place — with the top down.

It’s a smart 70 degrees and promises to be warmer. A hazy sky also promises some rain, maybe, later, but not now. Now it’s perfect weather for the wind in my hair.

I crank the car, unlatch the roof and watch it settle into the well behind the back seat. Ready to go.

It’s a whole different world with the top down. I can hear the baby goats, born just a few weeks ago, as I pass the house where they live on my way out of the little city I call home. Their bleating makes me smile, and I am on my way.

With the ragtop down, the trees are closer. The other day I took a friend to the airport and put the top down on the way home. The planes come in very low over one portion of the highway, and with the top down they’re even closer. I can hear the gears of the ailerons.

I can smell the air, warm air. Every breath gets deeper. A crew is cutting the grass on the side of the road and I get a strong whiff of the freshly mowed plant. For a moment, my nose sniffles — I’m a bit allergic to grass pollen — but it doesn’t last long. Another deep breath and there’s now a new smell.

On the highway, I’m five lanes over from that scary center median, identical to the one I plowed into at the start of The Accident. I still don’t like seeing it, even this far away, but it’s easier to ignore from this distance. I’d have to move over three lanes to the left to put it where it was before that gust of wind spun me around and across the last lane to the wall.

So here I am, cruisin’ with the top down. It’s like meditation in every day driving. There’s a groove I’m not even aware of, the wheels spinning perfectly in invisible grooves and moving me forward, ever forward. I’m part of the car, part of the road, part of the scenery around and completely separate from it all at the same time. Precision. Dynamic tension.

It’s right, and I can feel it.

I wonder why so few other people do this, why there are so few convertibles on the market and, consequently, on the road. Maybe people are afraid of them, afraid not to have that hard shell on the top, so they’ll settle for a sunroof.

I’ve had a hint of this. No small number of people who know I now drive a ragtop have gotten that peculiar expression on their face, the one that says, “Better you than me,” without actually saying it. Some have said, if not that, then other things to show their concern. “Better get a roll bar installed,” one friend said. I really think I’m ok. The car’s low to the ground and heavy to boot, with a five-star rollover rating. You’d practically have to t-bone it with a forklift and then lift it to push it over.

I’m a little more concerned that it’s red and I’ll have to watch the speed and other traffic laws so as not to attract the attention of police officers easily seduced by a sporty red car.

But this is nice. Sun and the wind, the radio on with a little rock and roll. Every time I do this, I can’t stop smiling, even with a concrete median just a few feet away.

And I arrive at my destination, car and me intact. I bring the roof back up, and before it covers the view, I see a hawk soaring on the warm thermals rising from ground. That bird knows what it’s like to ride with the top down. He’s never ridden a day in his life with the top up.

Oh, yeah. This is a very good day.

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