X Minutes to Everywhere

New teaching gig, new commute--half-hour each way, mostly freeway. Zip to cruising speed, change lanes, watch for Troopers, exit as directed. Favorite billboard, "When you die, you go to heaven: 855- FOR-TRUTH." It connects to a Gospel Billboard company. But then there's the traffic forecasting billboard, telling me I'm X minutes from...

One day it says I'm 11 minutes from downtown, via I-77. Next day I'm 11 minutes from Rt. 194. But does my  travel time include day-dream interludes...wondering if blue Lexus lady grips her wheel so tight because she's angry, or just  full of fright? Is the ball-capped lead foot in the F-150 jerkily changing lanes to make it home to dear wife or because he is escaping for dear life? Or what joyful noise cascades from the Jetta's speakers, to make the kid inside smile so bright?!

Time and destination and certainty and routes spelled out for everyone to see. We all can make it downtown from this point on I-480 in 13 minutes on this Tuesday, but in what state upon arrival? Pitfalls, potholes and panoramic views, whiz-banging outside my windows.

Oh wise billboard, what route leads to right life?

What if traffic billboards helped with transit plans AND life's other junctures too, "Take the lateral job change now, big promotion next exit." Or, "Caution, use care with grandma. Guilt warning 500 feet." Maybe "Use alternate route,  no good marriage ahead." Perhaps the right billboard could actually pick up our existential question at mile marker 14 and supply the answer by mile 21.

In an obscenely uncertain future, we all want to know how long it takes to get there and what we'll find. But really, no matter what the road, all we can do is drive.

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