Home Life Laurie Nigro Laurie Nigro Sometimes car-time is your only me-time

Laurie Nigro
Sometimes car-time is your only me-time

Stock photo: Fotolia

I don’t have a lot of free time. I doubt many of you do, either. As a matter of fact, you’re probably reading this but thinking, “I am not folding laundry and pretending that I’m looking up healthy dinner options for the week so this better be worth it.” Because we’re all overbooked and understaffed, in all aspects of our lives. Whether your work is centered around your home or takes you all over the world, everyone I know could use a few extra hours in the day and/or a wife or two (and I mean to help with all the practical things so get your mind out of the gutter.) I sometimes feel like the only time that I am not cleaning, working, computing, washing, picking up after, cooking, or letting dogs in and out of the house is when I am driving a variety of different people to various locations.

Car time is a unique time. For half of the ride, there is another person with whom to converse. Or, from whom you are desperately trying to extract information — before you drop them off — that will be vital to the scheduling of the rest of your day and without which you will ultimately get an annoyed text, two minutes after they had wanted you to be there to retrieve them, wherein they assume you have developed psychic and/or time-travel abilities.

For the second half of the ride, you are blessedly alone (unless, of course, there is another non-driving, transportation leech in your vehicle, in which case please see above).

I am often giddy with the possibilities of this me-time. What to do? I could listen to the news. Uninterrupted. And I wouldn’t even have to field political questions from the back seat whose answers require an intimate knowledge of the geopolitical climate of pre-World War II Eastern Asian society — and also make me miss the entire news story anyway. This may not be an exciting option to some, but when I was a new mom, NPR was like a bestie without whom I would have died. For real. When four o’clock came around and the intro music for “All Things Considered” began flowing through my house, I started to believe that I could regain the sanity that had been slipping away all day long. I finally felt like I was with adult people and they didn’t need me to meet their every need and also never put them down whilst doing so. I’m not saying that was healthy, but we do what we need to do to survive. Some people have ice cream. I have Robert Siegel.

As enticing, if not more so, is the option of listening to music. My music. Just mine. I have a visceral response to songs that I love. Though I cannot carry a tune or identify a musical note for the life of me, that does not stop me from being a tremendous lover of music (nor does it stop me from singing at the top of my lungs when alone. I am totally that lady who you laugh at when you pass her in your car). Almost every important moment in my life has its own soundtrack and one song off of any of these has the power to transport me back to that place and time. It’s nostalgia magic. After years of torturous car rides where I learned the many, many refrains of “The Wheels on the Bus” and all the lyrics to “Kookaburra,” I deserve to have the car’s entertainment system to myself. I deserve a few sing-alongs with Stevie Wonder, dammit.

Inevitably, what actually happens is that I get no time to enjoy the 38.4 cubic feet of all-mine car space because the minute I’m alone, my brain goes into overdrive. I remember four things I was supposed to ask the person I just dropped off that somehow escaped me the entire time they were in the car and now they will not answer my texts for another 36 minutes and then will only respond to one out of four. I think of all the doctor’s appointments I’ve been meaning to schedule for the last 11 months. I recall the name of that actor who played Joey’s dad on Friends (I’ll save you the Google search — it’s Robert Costanzo). I see someone walking a dog that looks like my first dog and feel both immense joy at the memory and crippling sadness over the fact that he is no longer with us and maybe start crying a little. I even come up with great material for this space that is funny and heartwarming and will be out of my head the first time I pass a Maserati and wonder if the guy at the car wash gets nervous when it comes through, or if maybe the driver never goes to the car wash because they don’t trust the car will come through unscathed. And then I think, “why get a car that expensive if you’re always going to be afraid of something happening so you can’t enjoy it?” Which leads me to question the driver’s emotional health and wonder what terrible thing happened in their life to make them spend that kind of money on an object. I mean, are they trying to buy happiness? Because you can’t. Life is fleeting and precious and OMG Mr. Maserati, you have to sell your car and go camping with your kids before it’s too late!

This is why it’s probably best that I don’t get a lot of me-time.

I should probably look into meditation. Oh wait. I spelled that wrong. I should probably look into medication. But Billy Joel tells me that he loves me just the way I am, so I’m going with that. However, if you want to find your zen and try out some meditation, there’s an app for that. Mindful.org reviewed their five favorite free ones. I like to say, “If it’s for free, it’s for me.” And I’ll admit, it piqued my curiosity with the one called “Celestial White Noise” because I thought space was a vacuum and therefore without sound. And if there is sound in space, why is it white noise? Wouldn’t there be something identifiable? If I were friends with Neil deGrasse Tyson, I would ask him all these things.

Laurie Nigro
Laurie is the mother of two biological children and one husband and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Laurie is passionate about frugal, natural living. She was recognized by the L.I. Press Club with a “best humor column” award in 2016. Email Laurie