American sameness

Right now I’m feeling a bit sad and lonely, and that is quite the relief.

On my drive across America, I was bothered by something which was this: I was content.  I wasn’t excited about my trip; excitement may have washed over intermittently, but only for minutes at a time, an hour or two at most, not for the full four day duration.  And it wasn’t quite satisfaction in my decision to move, or joy for what was ahead of me, or happiness at what I was leaving behind.  It wasn’t even the calming nothingness of the open road, or the relaxation that comes with books on tape.

Rather, as long as I was able to continue eating at Wendy’s, I was content.  As long as I had Van Morrison and Cat Stevens within arm’s reach, I was content.  As long as I could fall asleep every night with my Buffy DVDs, I was content.  And this concerned me because I was driving alone and had been warned that I would get very lonely very quick and it wasn’t happening and perhaps I didn’t need friends and family after all and as long as I had accessible entertainment and soothing corporate logos, I could be happy.  After seeing nothing but open space and the occasional pair of headlights for hours in Kansas or Utah, the sight of an Arby’s sign is much like the sight of an old friend.  It’s familiar, it’s comforting.  It meets expectations and oozes warm memories.  The same with those addictive DVD sets of TV shows.  It’s an old friend in a box.

I was worried.  I was worried that I’d reached that point in a society intent on homogenization and isolation where my best friends could be George Costanza, Sam Seaborn, and Jon Stewart, where they’d provide me all the laughter and emotional engagement and intellectual nourishment I needed, where my family could be Burger King and Motel 6, feeding me and keeping me warm.  I’m still worried that we’re headed down that path.  But right now I miss real people with their real food and their real locations with real memories.  And for the moment, anyway, I’m relieved.

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