Sometimes the most mundane of things, such as a work commute, end up as a highlight in a journal.
The story begins with my former commute that took about 40 minutes dependent on traffic and persnickety Ohio weather. Every morning, with plenty of time to spare, I made my way out the door to head east. I was never in a rush. The coffee needed time to kick in, and to be honest, I enjoyed the extra time to scream, I mean sing, along with the radio.
I wish it were the same for everyone, that slow crawl to work, but two commuters always blew me off the road. My favorite I nicknamed Aloha due to a misinterpretation of a car sticker. For months, I thought what turned out to be a butterfly was the unmistakable pinky and thumb salute. I would be about a quarter into my commute when Aloha’s headlights appeared in the distance. I knew it was Aloha because, in a blink, they were on my bumper before they whizzed around me. The butterfly sticker would elongate into the Aloha gesture of our 50th state as they hit lightspeed for the next galaxy.
Now, the interesting thing about traffic, on some occasions, I arrived at my work city ahead of Aloha. Thus, how I came to know where Aloha worked. I don’t know if this info makes me out to be a stalker or easily bored. However, I knew every detail of the car, license plate, and the general appearance of the driver. There was no way to miss Aloha’s neck-breaking turn toward their office one morning.
Along with Aloha, there was Silverado. A name bequeathed after a flash of their silver car as they passed my window. There was an immediate, Hi-Yo Silver, away! falling from my lips as they disappeared into the sun-filled horizon with the echo of a cracked whip. I can only assume they were wanton of time travel. I’m just not sure if I should point the finger at Back to the Future with an 80-mph DeLorean or Superman zipping around planet Earth to save Lois Lane.
Again, given how traffic may work and attention to detail, I learned Silverado was making haste for the highway. A few times, I sat at a red light with Silverado in the neighboring lane. I once glanced their way by nonchalantly appearing to wipe my nose on my sleeve. You know, keeping it classy but inconspicuous as I tried to figure out if Silverado was Clark Kent, Marty McFly, or more along the line of Philip J. Fry.
The drive home from work was always interesting, too. Silverado was rather mellow about heading home but always had a cell phone plugged to one ear. Aloha was in a race to beat a mysterious clock but never held a cell phone. I must give credit where credit is due.
The funny thing (besides the fact I may be too nosy for my own good) is how we pay attention to the most mundane of things. We assume invisibility. When making a deposit at the bank where I’ve been a customer for over a decade, but always asked for an ID. Or running into my mother at the grocery store where she takes a full minute to realize it is her eldest child. Regardless, somewhere along the line, someone is taking notes, probably a neighbor, and for their YouTube channel. The thought makes one self-conscious, and thus I introduce the spotlight effect.
The spotlight effect is one of those juicy psychology terms I find so fascinating. It is the belief we are being observed far more than reality warrants. My eldest once suffered it to an extreme when in grade school. I recall many a reassuring conversation that no one noticed whatever mundane mishap had set her cheeks on fire. I have similar conversations with myself whenever I feel particularly out of place, which is about everywhere but especially at the bank.
Of course, this story flies in the face of the spotlight effect given my notation of something as mundane as a morning commute. Or I am in desperate need of better hobbies. But if I note mundane things on a morning commute, what about Aloha or Silverado? Surely they noticed me? We shared the same back country road for several years. What were they thinking upon arrival at my bumper? Did they roll eyes, snipe about Grandma, or perhaps The Tortoise? Maybe the nickname was far more colorful and creative than I could ever (willingly) imagine or write here? Yes, probably far more creative. I probably don’t want to know, but I hope I get credit for lack of a cell phone plugged to an ear — bonus points for not wiping my nose on my sleeve and, you know, not being a stalker.
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong is a reporter for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird and a life-long resident of Darke County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in work psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership because she’s a sucker for all things jobs. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.