My Turn: Life in the slow lane

For the Monitor
Published: 1/5/2020 6:00:38 AM
Modified: 1/5/2020 6:00:11 AM

My daughter asked me the other day, while we were in my car, why I didn’t take I-89 to New London instead of the slower Route 114 that we were on. “It’s more direct,” I said, before blurting out, “and I’m not in a hurry.”

I used to want to be the fastest driver on the road. Cruising at 85 mph was the norm when I was younger. I was the one in the passing lane, first in a Saab 9000 Turbo with a cockpit like an airplane, then a Nissan Maxima, followed by an Infiniti M35X. I’ve always been a safe driver. I don’t tailgate. I pull over if someone wants to go faster. But my need for speed has waned.

Now I seek the quieter, less-traveled roads. Semi-retired, I am not on a tight schedule and not in a rush to do anything or get anywhere on a deadline. Having always been self-employed, I was never a member of the “rat race,” but running a business and helping raise a family required multi-tasking skills I no longer need to practice.

The shift to slower driving began when granddaughter Eliza was a baby, and I was called upon to drive her around Concord while my daughter shopped. The rocking of the car always put her to sleep in short order. Roads I would normally avoid, like Route 3 north of Concord toward Penacook, with its 35 mph speed limit, were perfect for this task. With such precious cargo in the back seat, driving slowly became the priority.

Eliza sat directly in back of my driver seat. I was able to tilt the rearview mirror to see both her head and the rear window. I played Tracy Chapman songs that Eliza seemed to love as much as I did; she would often fall asleep to the words of “Heaven Is Here on Earth.”

Watching a child fall asleep is a magical experience. Driving back and forth on Route 3, with Eliza’s angel face peacefully sleeping in a protective womb, was a privilege I was grateful for. And it awakened me to the benefits of slowing down.

For most people, slow driving happens only when stuck in traffic. On the rare occasions when I must be in Boston, or New York, or any other large city, the traffic appears worse than ever. Gridlock is the norm, no matter the time of day or night.

I feel fortunate to be far from that frantic scene, to be able to seek out the less-traveled back roads. The side roads get me where I want to go, the slow pace allows me to take in the breathtaking vistas around every corner. There’s not a hint of traffic, except for an occasional flock of wild turkeys. For them, I gladly come to a complete halt. Trusting the stopped car, they relax, meandering out of the woods, 10 or 20 strong, in no hurry, just like me.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)


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