I took the afternoon off -- and all tomorrow too -- in order to drive at my leisure around Central Arkansas showing off the sites to my visitor. And while driving over the bridge at Toad Suck Ferry Locks and Dam, on our way to Perryville, I was seized with the joy of independent mobility.
It's been a long time since I learned to drive at 16 and first got that intoxicating whiff of freedom that comes from being able to go from point A to point B under your own power. Even better than getting to point B, of course, was to decide mid-journey that you wanted to go to point C instead. The sense of autonomy is almost overwhelming. One is suddenly an independent agent in the world, and the vast network of roads are all possibilities.
The interstate used to feel that way to me -- I felt like a faux-adult guiding my Buick Skyhawk down I-24 whenever I got to drive home by myself from high school -- but now wide, access-controlled highways feel constraining. The scenery rarely changes, and the sweeping gentle turns and topology-blasting straightaways make me feel that the interstate is driving me, rather than the other way around.
No, what feels like freedom now is the two-lane state highway, where the cruise control is not an option. Turns can be sharp, and you have to plan ahead for them. Sudden dips in the road can make your stomach drop if taken at full speed. The roadside is so close, and changes so often, and speeds by so fast that you feel like you're really going someplace even though your velocity is less than on an interstate.
In other words, this is an arena where one feels more alive, less like a traffic blip on somebody's robot-controlled radar. The choices have returned -- the freedom is palpable. Put me on a state highway, and I'm ready to take off and go until I run out of gas, just to see where I might get to.
I've resisted being assigned to many recruiting trips more than an hour away from Conway, using as my excuse that I need to stay near home in order to have regular hours with my family. But the powerful abandon I've begun to feel on these roads makes me think I might accept some farther-flung appointments, just to experience that rush of freedom, adulthood, the vast panorama of possibilities a few more times.