My husband once said that when he retires, he’ll buy an old beater of a car, fill the trunk with concrete, and stop dead in front of any lousy tailgater who crosses the line that is the boundary of his personal vehicular space.
Not exactly my idea of driving off into the sunset, but he can dream, right?
Yesterday I came up with my own post-retirement dream driving scenario. Now, I must qualify by saying that my utopian dream of “retirement” is one in which I make no binding time commitments to any cause whatsoever, and am free to twiddle away my time as if the clock ticks not at all. In my idealized version of retirement there will be no dishes to do, no laundry to wash, and no volunteer commitments to fulfill. I will eat off of compostable paper plates, wear disposable enviro-friendly paper clothes, and lead off every conversational exchange with, “I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t fit into my schedule.”
In that “time is no object” world, in which I will drive for pleasure to nowhere in particular, my dog will always ride along with me. And if I do say so myself, he’ll be the cutest, most irresistible dog in the world, as he will be a clone of my current dog, who is by far the world’s current cutest, most irresistible dog. He’ll sit right there in the passenger seat, buckled in with a strappy canine fashion seatbelt that somehow lets him have the extraordinary freedom to stick his head out into a gloriously ear-flapping world while still enjoying cutting edge safety technology.
But here’s the thing. I wouldn’t just be doing it for my dog. I’d really be doing it for all those poor, sad, bored-looking drivers and crossing guards and bikers and walkers, who go through their days with their heads angled down or frozen straight ahead because they’re weighed down by the chore-ridden angst of everyday life. But when they see my dog, the world’s cutest and most irresistible, they’ll awake from that stupor, as if roused from the hypnotic incantations of an evil, soul-killing sorcerer, and they’ll smile.
That thing in all of us that makes us truly human will be rekindled in them. They’ll forget their troubles, if only for a moment, because what they’ll be thinking is, “Hey, that dog is really cute.” And they’ll also be thinking, “I really want to stop and pet that cute little dog.” And maybe when I’m stopped at a red light, they’ll even come over and reach a hand into my open window and give my dog’s softy fur a couple of satisfying strokes.
Maybe they’ll be so moved that they’ll ditch their crummy cars and their torn up sneakers and their soul-sapping jobs, and they’ll hop in the car with me and my super-cute dog. He’ll make sure that they’re completely strapped in for safety, of course, and when they are, he’ll teach them how to stick their heads out the window so they too can soak in some of that ear-flapping goodness that is what life very well may be all about.
Before you know it, our nation’s streets and highways will become as one great big dogs-in-cars, ear-flapping party bus. Allergic Americans will be issued protective suits by the government so they too can jump on the doggie train. Dogs will become a staple of court proceedings, legislative sessions, community gatherings, and ecumenical church services because deep down everyone knows that a couple of cute dogs are all it really takes to bring people together.
In our new canine-revived society, lips will part, teeth will show, paws will shake, barriers will fall, doors will be opened, and the world will finally be as the Coca-cola marketing team has always envisioned it.
Except what about this? What if I’m driving along and I get behind a guy who’s driving a really old beat-up car, who’s all grouchy and cynical, and when I creep up real close so he can get a look at the rear-view mirror reflection of the cutest, most irresistible dog in the world, the guy suddenly stops dead in front of me, and I smash, dog and all, headlong into his concrete-filled trunk?
Oh dear, what then?