It is the little things.
I am on a lane-less two lane road that is used up as three lanes and a half. There is a long line of vehicles of various shapes and forms bumper to bumper waiting in a fervid anticipation for the bumper before to move an inch or two. From the corner of his eye, the driver of the car in front of mine glimpses an auto about fifteen vehicles ahead adjust his rear tyre a fraction. He honks and as if on cue, a series of honks burst into life – staccato commands of a civilization in a perennial rush, it seems. Slowly they lapse into silence once more as the inches are taken and the wait resumes.
After I have moved about a hundred metres, I finally see the seemingly oblivious conductor of this morning’s composition. A dirt laden paint peeling lorry stands one thirds of the lane away from the missing left sidewalk, like a battered boxer who couldn’t care less for the world around him. Standing alongside, the driver smokes a cigarette, smirking at curses that hail on him from every vehicle that makes its way past him. Two disheveled men dig a ditch or are attempting to close one that has opened up, it is not clear to me if the objective is the former or the latter. They shovel grime and sewage that they promptly cast aside onto the tarred road. There it settles where no doubt it shall remain to expand the sidewalk. My driver finds a suitable curse, and I pass them by.
It is always so, therefore it is strange that I am moved enough to chronicle this everyday event. Maybe it is so because I have just returned from a visit to the land of milk and honey, neither of which taste remotely as good as their equivalents here. There I noticed cracks on roads that appeared to have opened up since my last visit. Long thin cracks on solidly tarred and paved California highways seemed like visible signs of the milk and honey beginning to curdle. I walked the roads, and there wasn’t anyone else around who appeared to walk too. What a tragedy that on a brilliant summer day with a cool breeze blowing, I could count but three others besides us who walked on the broad sidewalks past manicured lawns and solid row houses – identical may be, graceful nevertheless. I visited Costco and I saw huge women too huge to walk drive along the store aisles on little vehicles, their butts falling off the little seats in the little vehicles. The headlines rang true – obesity nation in the fitness nation, neither influenced by the existence of the other. I switch on the TV and their news channels put Arnab Goswami to shame. ESPN was worse still – LeBron this, LeBron that. To paraphrase one commentator from the San Jose Mercury news, 9 PM Thursday PST, America waited in bated breath for LeBron’s one liner – I am going to Miami, he says, and it puts to shade JFK’s greatest lines. In the office, I saw only middle aged people hard at work, backs against the walls it seemed, as senior management drove costs out of the system. Acres of beautiful campus lined with tall evergreen trees and everyone too busy to pay any attention to them. People ate at their desks, worked from home if they could, and made little conversation – be that at their desks, at the spacious cafeteria or along the long hallways. They quizzed me about the mood in my land – is it positive, are people happy, how is the economy doing? I answered as honestly as I can – I like them, almost all of them are honest, decent people who can be fun too, but our fates right now are twined like the two halves of an hour glass.
My sixty minutes of reflection are up as my car pulls into the parking lot. Decay, that notion is on my mind every now and then, the two weeks I am there. Then I land here – everything is relative, no? I will tell you this much though – no matter what, the mood of a nation is a big deal.