Unique. If ever a word was used to describe all six billion of us, that would be unique. No two people, sisters, brothers or friends will ever be the same. Each of us have a dream that spurs us on, a vision for a future and most interesting of all, spaces of comfort. Be it in the pages of an exciting book, the exhilaration of an outdoor adventure, or a classy dinner with friends. Somewhere along the way however, there is that one thing that we can’t help but smile about. And now I find there is a pleasure we have in common. The captivating open road.
Transport has been necessary since before the inception of the wheel, and now it is a luxury afforded by the majority (yes matatus count). However short the trip, something about being in a car moving at speeds far beyond our physical capability is exciting. You always get lost in your thoughts ten minutes into a ride. Then along the way if the trip is long enough you can’t help but be awed. Simple glass windows separating you from the ravages of cold and a howling wind suddenly become animated portraits. The landscape whizzing by suddenly comes to life if you’re gliding across the countryside. How beautiful Mother Nature is. How exciting it would be to go up that cliff-side. How about a picnic on that grassy meadow under the warmth of the sun. Another gem is to be driving in a buzzing metropolis; to marvel at the detail in the sky scrapers. Amuse yourself in trying to decide where the pedestrian who just jogged past you is headed. Other times, the muted hum of the engine and the soft whirring of the air conditioning ushers us into our deepest thoughts and we seldom notice what passes by.
Come day’s end, we all have a single destination in mind. Dulce Domum, Latin for Home, Sweet Home. Home, where you look forward to seeing someone who you held in your thoughts. There in lies our default setting, the assumption that we will indeed share a meal. Then lumber of to our beds to blissful dreams and perhaps share that too. In the grand scheme of things I have found we oft take a lot of things for granted… Living day after day without realizing how lucky we were to see that familiar background. Only after narrow escapes do we realize the gravity of our unwitting blind faith. Three times I can count…
On one occasion, I recall an evening after a busy day at school. I wasn’t too picky that day, blame it on fatigue and hunger. I sat at the back of a small Nissan van (*matatu), not caring to check for perhaps this was an ol’ chum soon to be retired. That proved to be my folly. As we neared home, on a busy hilltop in our city’s industrial suburb, the chassis’ rear axle snapped and we lost a wheel. I was intrigued to find the grating sound beneath me was metal scraping against tarmac. Unlike what one would expect in such harrowing ordeals there were few final prayers. I guess this was because the collective mood was one of the exhausted employee/student. The second, was on a bus ride with one of my closest friends. We had just successfully completed an intense hike through a hilly coastal countryside and now the heroes were heading home. Along the way, speeding on the highway, we suddenly noticed the oil tanker in front of us had come to a stop. Given our high speeds, coming to a standstill before collision was out of the question. The next best option was to overtake but that was straight into a fender bender with an on-coming truck. In the last few seconds, pandemonium struck. I heard muffled cries, hushed prayers and a few curses thrown in for good measure. I was perturbed however by my accomplice. She seemed disinterested. One would say, she threw in a yawn for good measure. Bless her the poor child, she must have been mortified. To my left a mother held her children in close embrace. Eventually we banked of the tarmac and were saved by the rough road. In that instance we were collectively thankful.
Ah this last one, is close to my heart. I was driving my friends to camp and nearly got overrun. I guess the driver on the other lane got his estimates wrong and attempted to overtake assuming he would do so before we crossed each other’s paths. Oh how wrong he was. As I pumped down on the breaks, my thoughts immediately went to my passengers. They had wholeheartedly put there lives in my hands. We swerved out of that tricky situation. That was when I realized, drivers are unsung heroes. Where as a passenger on the backseat, yours is a quiet, calm and thoughtful adventure; the driver’s is a dashboard battlefield with the view of a fish eye lens. All he follows is his centre line on the black top. So keen is he that he has little time for the sunset or the flock of birds crossing the blue skies. Full of prudence is she that she’s always ready for the odd pedestrian, cow or zebra dashing across the road.
Our driver, usually referred to as the ground pilot. We entrust them with our lives for those fleeting moments when their mettle is tested. They too would love to freeze up in fear, cry in despair and close their eyes to the near accident but no. They are called into action. It is their noble duty to afford you the pleasure of that warm embrace, cosy fire and snug bed back home. So as you hitch your next ride, pay your pilot a compliment. Recognize their role in the safety of your trip as you snooze to the ambient noises.
A toast to our ground pilots, these unsung heroes. Bon Voyage…