Tuesday, April 28, 2009

silently touching others

While sitting in bumper to bumper traffic this morning, I happen to look into my rear view mirror and was delighted to see the smiling face of the gentleman in the car behind me. It was such a sweet smile that I didn’t want to look away. I wondered what he was smiling about. He was not on the phone so I could only assume he was listening to something that pleased him. As his smile grew and stretched across his face I found that mine did also. I kept looking as he nodded his head and watched as his smile grew and grew. The more he smiled the more delighted I felt. I was filled with a sense of joy by it. Then suddenly he broke into a full bolt of laughter, head thrown back, his hands banging the steering wheel, clapping his hand together. The harder he laughed the harder I laughed! It was such a wonderful feeling, this shared laughter with a total stranger; I felt completely filled up by it. Then abruptly he changed lanes and I was so disappointed.

An old red Chevy pulled up close behind me, driven by an older man, somewhat rough looking. He was on the phone screaming at someone. My smile was replaced by a furrow. He was so angry. He was shaking his head and pointing his finger at the voice on the line, banging on the dash. He ended the call and kept shaking his head, putting his hand on his head, gritting his teeth and then began yelling at no one in particular, the traffic, God maybe, me perhaps. Although I was shaken by this, my smile was still lingering under the surface and I all I could think was… the poor bastard. How sad to be so angry at the start of the day. Just as we passed the toll booth he sped around me, running away from the world.

A woman in a BMW pulled up close behind. She looked forlorn, downtrodden, resigned or perhaps just bored out of her mind. She held her tilted head up with her hand, elbow resting on the door, occasionally running her fingers through her hair, looking down into her lap. I felt such sadness looking at her – there was such hopelessness in her vacuous stare. I wondered what her life read like. I wondered if she was alone in the world. I found myself hoping that at the end of the day she drove home to someone who loved her, worshipped her, and gave her reason to drive in the opposite direction with a longing for the embrace that awaited her.

My day had barely begun and I had traveled through a day’s worth of emotions. I wanted to be left with the laughter that began it all so I returned my thoughts to that gentle smile that followed me as I crossed the bridge into the city, affirming that laughter truly is the shortest distance between two people.


  1. Thank you for brightening up the rest of my day.

  2. reading this reminded me of a song i wrote about 10 years ago ... hope you don't mind me quoting it here:

    "the other day i was drivin'
    in a rush to get someplace
    caught myself in the rear view mirror
    starin' off into space
    i could see by my expression
    that i wasn't really there
    but what really hurt was when i realized
    that i didn't really care!

    what's wrong with this picture
    someone tell me please
    the pace and the pressure
    'bout to bring me to my knees
    am i the only one unable to see
    what's wrong with this picture of me?"

    it may be hard to tell without the ragtime guitar and john prine-ish delivery, but this is actually supposed to be a funny song!

  3. Dear Victoria,
    Your post on Lola on mothers day touched me more deeply than I expected. I only met her for that brief period back in 1982/3 but saw in her the smiles, beauty and charm that you and Gail inherited.

    Now, above you write about my pet subject. Once I just tried to practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. This guy in your rear-view and I are from the advanced school of that development - world laughter promoters - just see my web site to get the point.

    You made me laugh in a quite tense situation 25 years ago - My ill-fated mission to try and win back your sister, and the awkward pick up you kindly gave me at the airport - all tense and quiet until you suddenly swerved to try and run down a pigeon (and there is no such thing as an innocent pigeon).
    My laughter may have been exaggerated by the prior tension, but I enjoyed your presence from that moment on.
    I hope you now do what you saw him do, the next time someone catches you in the rear view mirror - or anywhere else that tension needs replacing with laughter.

    best wishes, Patrick.