Streaming Down the Road

streaming5:28 A.M.  Fog seeps in as I press the button and the garage door rolls open. The usual dashboard warning lights blink and buzzers sound. I flip to the audiobook CD on the media player as I slowly back the car out, remembering that our houseguest's rental car is in the driveway. Pleased with myself for remembering, I manage to maneuver my car expertly out of the garage and head to the street.

5:29-5:30 A.M. Driving through the subdivision in the fog. Fortunately no dog-walkers or joggers this morning, at least none that I can see through the mist.

5:31 A.M. I can barely make out the red light at the major intersection up ahead. I accelerate just enough to position myself to make a left turn the instant the turn arrow illuminates.

5:32 A.M. Tollway bound, the state trooper in their usual spot along the entrance ramp. I wave as I begin to accelerate to expressway speed.

5:33-5:37 A.M. I slide to the left lane, engage cruise control and concentrate on listening to the new Richard Russo novel.

5:38-5:39 A.M. The first construction zone. The left lane narrows, the shoulder shrinks, concrete dividers loom. Reclaiming control from the cruise control, I reduce speed and move one lane to the right.

5:40-5:41 A.M. Back in the left lane, cruise control once again locking in my speed. As I pass the nursing home to the east I check the dashboard timer. Eleven minutes so far, the average for this part of the early morning commute. Ten minutes is a rarity, twelve minutes a disappointment. It all depends on the turn signal at that first intersection.

5:42-5:44 A.M. The road lightis have a strange ethereal appearance in the fog. My mind is back with Richard Russo, as traffic and I shimmy along -- the trucks, SUVs, and crossovers all dwarfing my lone sedan. I hold my ground, not letting the bruisers intimidate me.

5:45-5:46 A.M. A longer construction zone, but I whizz past casinos and airports, toll collectors and fashion malls.  A single stanchion remains from the old oasis, a reminder that nothing we build is eternal. Barely looking down, I change CDs and begin listening to the last chapter in my novel.

5:47-5:48 A.M. Cruising past Urlacher Lane. Billboard after billboard. A Chicago hero transformed into a hair transplant pitchman. Is he still a hero?

5:49-5:51 A.M. Slowly move to the right, sharing the interior lanes with drivers heading for backed-up exits, while other cars merge in from other expressways.

5:52-5:54 A.M. My exit lane, then the last toll. I brake to the first stoplight in 22 miles.

5:55 A.M. A right turn into the driveway of the near-empty parking lot, and I grab my briefcase and lunch. I lock the car doors, head for the lab,  and my workday begins.

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