vendredi 7 août 2009

Plus ça change...




Bison futé is seeing red this weekend, which means that lots of people in France are starting their summer holiday and taking to the road. This is one of the many grand départ weekends in France. Yet another day rated "rouge", meaning filled with bouchons (traffic jams) as kilometer after kilometer of drivers from France and elsewhere wait in line, in stop and go traffic, for the privilege of inching along in accordian fashion until they finally reach their holiday destination.

This ritual is such an integral part of getting away (for vacations and long weekends - the so-called ponts) that I wonder if relaxation is even possible unless preceded by it. So excruciating and yet so necessary: hours and hours stuck inside an automobile, with plenty of time to decompress and leave behind the stress of working or not not working, the density of the urban setting, the slow death of the métro-boulot-dodo routine... Rest stops (Aires de repos), restaurants (La Courte Paille!) and service stations filled with people just like you, weary travelers stuck in traffic, paying too much for food eaten out of boredom to break up the sheer monotony of car travel.

But here's a funny thing: I love the monotony of car travel. Which is to say I don't find it monotonous at all. I love to watch the odomotor turn; I love to mentally calculate the speed of the vehicle by reference to the road signage instead of the speedomotor; I love to trace out the route on detailed maps; I love to imagine the lives of the people who live in the small towns off in the distance, away from the freeway. In France, I had a favorite tree. It is still there, I'm sure. It stands alone, majestic, in a field that lies just next to the A10 autoroute. No matter what was going on in my head, I always managed to look out the window just as the car was going past this tree. I always wanted to stop and take a picture of it, but I never did. The next time we go to France, I'm going to get a photo of that tree. I bet there are many people who know exactly which tree I'm talking about.