The old guy behind the wheel was giving me directions. “What time do you think you’ll be taking this drive?” “About 5.” I say shrugging my shoulders. I had no idea and really just wanted to know how to get from here to there. It was before the days of map quest, garmons or even home computers for a girl like me. It was the mid 1980’s.
“Well, that will take you about 3 hours windshield time.”
The old guy was Al and he always gave directions estimating the amount of time you’d be sitting staring out at the road through your windshield. Windshield time. The funny thing is he was always pretty close. Al was a salesman who had his job as long as I was on the earth. Ancient is all I could think when I rode with him. When he wasn’t filling the silence with bad jokes he was bitterly mumbling about an ex-wife who had done him wrong. She cheated on him and took all his money. I hated riding with Al. In the winter, his nose dripped on the samples we carried. I would bring a tissue along to wipe the snot off the books before handing them over to the client.
“Oh, just let him coast. Al has just a few years left until retirement.” My boss waved his hand. He too had just a few years left until retirement and in the summers had a tan that was deep, dark and rich. I don’t think he was working behind the desk until 5. There were rumors there was a boat docked on the North Shore. That was before cell phones could keep everyone connected.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Where have you been Mae?” Would you believe windshield time? Yes, I’ve been driving up and down the coast meeting with clients. I’ve had lots of time to think about Al and the cast of characters who I worked with years ago. Recently, the health insurance after retirement that was promised me from the day I was hired was taken away. The company was sold and with it went a few promises. I’ve been mulling over this up and down the highway.
I remember Al’s retirement party. It was held in a dark Italian restaurant in Queens. Al was there with his girlfriend. She was a lovely woman in her 60’s who seemed to really like him. As it turns out, they had been together for years. I was shocked as he never mentioned her. I wasn’t sure he could even see the woman next to him as he seemed so focused on the past. Still stewing over a woman whose perfume had long faded from the air.
Sometimes I drive in silence just letting my thoughts fill up the miles before me. I solve many problems this way and have come to some very solid conclusions. I know I won’t have the luxury of coasting as retirement nears. I know it would be best to blow my nose instead of letting it drip all over the place. I also know not to dwell on the past as you might miss the present.