Tuesday, March 9, 2010


We are creatures of habit. We adhere to schedules, both because they comfort us and because they are necessary, but sometimes those schedules bind us. They dull our vision and let us settle into the stupor of familiarity. It takes something...different to get us to pay attention and begin thinking once again.

The stoplight was part of my routine. At an intersection less than 15 minutes from home, it is a light that I have been waiting at for the past 14 years. Familiar territory, a space where my primary thought is safely navigating the snarl of traffic on its way to the K-12 school down the road. I don't pay much attention - it's a similar scene day in and day out.

This morning I sat there, nursing my travel mug of coffee and waiting for the light to change, sparing an occasional habitual glance to ensure the hood behind me didn't come too close to my bumper. And then I heard the sound of music from another vehicle nearby. Really, at an intersection less than a block from a high school, that's not unusual. I'm quite accustomed to being jarred by the vibrating bass of someone's car system blasting out rap. But this shared musical selection stopped me in the middle of a sip of coffee. Someone, in the immediate area, was blasting opera loud enough that I could actually make out the words. In Italian.

Jarred out of ritual, I began, circumspectly of course, craning my head in an attempt to find out who on earth was blasting...opera. It took only a moment to determine it was a blandly beige Toyota behind me to the right. The windows were tinted, preventing me from glimpsing more of the driver than a lightly conducting hand in the window.

The light turned, and I watched with considerable amusement as, to the applause following the aria (still audible in my car), the Toyota peeled out of its spot, speeding past two cars and pulling in a few spaces ahead of me, cutting off a high-school driver. I followed more slowly, eventually finding myself behind the car again, drifting along in the wake of a rousing choral number until the driver again sped ahead, this time on his way to tailgate a school bus.

Sometimes I forget, in the ritual of habit, what amazing creatures we humans are, how quirky and how diverse, not merely in skin tone or culture or physical characteristic, but in who we are and how we choose to express ourselves. I wish all the best to the Operatic Kamikaze, and I thank him for starting my day, instead of with ritual, with a smile.

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