Here are the things I think to myself:
I wonder what her name is. Probably something with a B? I don’t know. How would I know that? Oh, maybe she has a personalized plate. Hmm, no. I wonder why she doesn’t have a personalized plate.
I wonder where she’s going. I hope it’s a good destination, like a date or an interview. Gosh, what if it’s a bad destination, like she’s on her way to get broken up with and she doesn’t even know it?
So does she have a boyfriend? A girlfriend? A spouse, or ex-spouse? I wonder how many times she’s fought with an ex in that car, or made up with an ex in that car. Or made OUT with an ex in that car. I wonder if she likes her car, and why she picked that one. Maybe she didn’t pick that one — maybe it was a hand-me-down from an older sibling, or deceased parent. Maybe she won it on one of those game shows. I always thought it would be weird to win a car on a game show. Like, what if I didn’t need it then.. I’d just have a new car? I wonder how she won it…
Anyway. I wonder why she cut her hair like that. It looks good, it’s just weird that I’ll never know if it was down to her butt a few hours ago and she’s on her way home from the biggest haircut of her life. I wonder if we have mutual friends. I bet we don’t, which is crazy. She has had a whole life of classmates and friends and crushes and bullies and cousins that I might not know at all, ever. We may be on this planet together and not know any of the same 2 people. Or, maybe her least favorite person of all time is my favorite person of all time.
I wonder if we’ve crossed paths before today. Have we been in the same movie theater, grocery store, or school? Have we laughed together at a standup show? I wonder if this is the first time we’ve ever been in talking-distance from each other, or maybe we have driven past each other every single day for 4893 days in a row.
Is she happy? I hope she’s happy, but it blows my mind that I can’t possibly know what’s making her happy, or why she’s more depressed now than she’s ever been in her life. I can smile at her, and I should, because who knows? Literally, I have absolutely zero idea if this is the best day of her life, the worst day of her life, or a completely uneventful blip in between.
I am sitting in my car, looking at her in her car. Even though we’re 10 feet apart, we couldn’t be farther apart. Our cars are separate universes and we’re dancing right on the edge, nearly colliding.
We’re orbiting together, for a few minutes of our lives, before the traffic clears up and we drive away and maybe never see each other again. Ever.
And the craziest part? She didn’t look over the entire time. I’ve been sitting here trying to understand the depths of her relationships or reasons for her depression, and she has no idea I exist. Even then, I am now rooting for her. I hope she gets the job and marries the guy and grows out her hair and never crashes that shiny car.
I hope you try this. If you like it, I hope you try it regularly. Thinking about the strangers around me has made the world feel bigger and smaller, simultaneously. Bigger, because some of the things that stress you out on a daily basis may be literally nonexistent to the people around you. Smaller, because that guy in the next lane might be the man of your dreams someday.
See you tomorrow,