On the Dangers of Commuting
My commute is pretty tame by most standards. I have about 30 minutes on the road, plus another 5-10 for parking and getting to my office. I wish I lived within walking distance of my garret in an ivory tower but THAT is where I live in my fantasy world.
In my real-world life, where I cruise along the 403 against traffic to my office in a rehabbed brownfields site, I pass farm fields, a tractor or two, signs for orchards and, now that spring is upon us, a consistent flock of redwing blackbirds pecking in the greenery on the verge of the highway. Bucolic southern Ontario.
My current audiobook, The Nr. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, takes place in Botswana, worlds away from southern Ontario. As I listen, I try to imagine what a thorn tree looks like, and how the bush looks as it stretches away toward the desert. I know what redbush tea tastes like, so I can at least drink together with the characters in my mind. I think to myself: when you get to the office, you should look up a map of Botswana, so that you can picture all of this accurately. But I’m not sure that an accurate geographical or political map of Botswana in my brain would mean I enjoyed the story more. My imagination suffices.
Unfortunately. And I say unfortunately because my imagination was all I needed this morning on my drive in to picture, quite vividly, a scene in the novel where Mma Ramotswe sees a snake slither in front of her car, hears a noise, but does not see the snake in the road when she looks in her rear-view mirror. She pulls over after pondering all the stories she has heard about snakes getting up inside the chassis of a car and loitering about, waiting to bit unsuspecting car drivers. I pictured this snake–a cobra, she thought, long and green. I have seen pictures of Indian cobras, and I think of them as black or brown but my imagination is powerful enough to envision a very long, green African cobra. I pictured this cobra underneath her seat, writhing its way into the space behind the dashboard, and I squirmed and I gagged and I averted my inner gaze from my mind’s eye and generally made an ass of myself behind the wheel.
While Mma Ramotswe has to worry about the cobra wrapped around her engine block, my fellow commuters were likely wondering what sort of at-home pap smear device the driver of the blue Subaru was trying out this morning on the road!