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Top Gear Philippines

100kph of solitude

You belong to the countless single and mobile, a group that has come to also embrace the separated and mobile, the widowed and mobile, the hater-of-the-opposite-sex and mobile, the commitment-phobic and mobile. You, like everyone else in this club, drive around every single day with an empty front passenger seat.

You have long discovered the benefits of driving alone. You can fart all you want or pick your nose whenever you feel like it without offending the sensibilities of someone else. You can play Led Zep and sing at the top of your lungs without a whining companion. But the best benefit of all is the quiet that solitude provides. You don’t have to labor through a conversation and you’re not forced to answer inane questions, especially in traffic. And there’s no awkward silence whenever you run out of things to say to each other.

Driving alone is not necessarily a happy experience, but it’s convenient. Productive even. Your best ideas come to you while you’re cruising around aimlessly. The tawdry but highly addictive Baywatch TV series probably came upon David Hasselhoff while he was driving alone as Michael Knight in that black Pontiac Trans Am.

You’re not sure why, but the most tragic bits of your life also come flooding back in your mind when you’re cruising at full speed. The windshield becomes a hazy silver screen that keeps projecting all your stupid mistakes and all your bitterest episodes. They don’t play comedies when you’re driving alone--especially not when the audio system has Kurt Cobain confessing: "I’m so tired, I can’t sleep; I’m a liar and a thief."

You’re thinking real-life liars and thieves have a better lot in life. They might be doomed behind cold bars for a while, but you...you might very well be doomed to roam the streets behind a cold steering wheel for the rest of your life. Alone.

And so you drive to some place where company is cheap. You’re that type of person who’s dangerous to be left with himself. You drink, you laugh, you flirt, you act cool. You do anything just to postpone that task of driving by yourself again. You did it last night and the night before it. You know you’ll do it again tomorrow. But it doesn’t matter: Anything’s better than that hollow feeling that consumes you at 100kph, so you’ll take it. Anything.

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And then, as usual, when everyone else has left, you decide to go home. You proceed to the parking lot and walk to a car that has more soul than you do. You buckle up, not so much for safety as it is for a Freudian wish to be embraced. You turn on the radio only to be asked by Ric Ocasek: "Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?" You wish you had a different answer, but who are you kidding? Rock stars have a cruel sense of humor.

You speed away hoping the mild buzz of beer will drown out your sorrows. It drowns out only your reflexes. Scream the lyrics of the song? Good luck if Spotify is playing Michael Franks.

A street vendor taps on your window and offers you the flowers he’s peddling. You don’t know whom to actually pity: the vendor for not having a better life, or yourself for not having anyone to give flowers to. Maybe the hawker does have a better life. Ah, driving alone has shown you more sad truths than all of Shakespeare’s tragedies combined.

As the light turns green, you achingly wish not to be able to fart or pick your nose in the car again. You wish not to be able to freely play your music again. You wish to labor through a conversation again.

All you really wish is to have that one passenger back again.

This article, slightly tweaked and updated, was first published in The Manila Times in 2004.

Vernon B. Sarne
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