Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Have a Good Life"

There are moments in life that stand out over others. I know that's an obvious statement, but it seems, for me, that these moments are not the same as what others would have.

Yesterday was a long day for me. I got home at 1AM Monday morning and just five hours later my dad and I were headed to the Washington D.C. Metro area to go to my aunt's for Thanksgiving. The weather of the drive was not good and once we hit central Kentucky it was rain all the way (I followed the system that gave the Supernats so much rain.)

All along I had it in my mind to stop at the Roy Rogers in Cumberland, MD. I ate there with the USAC staff on the way back from the race in Hagerstown and wanted to do so again. My dad had mentioned his first roast beef sandwich had actually been from a Roy Rogers. Anyway, we get there and before we ordered my dad struck up a conversation with someone that was eating. This person, I guess, was from the area (I came into the conversation a bit late) and was talking about the excess of accidents that were happening due to the poor weather.

We ordered and sat down and the conversation continued on. The fact that there was this conversation was odd for me because I don't talk to people I don't know in a setting like this. And yet, watching it, created a flood of emotions. Who was this person? What was his story? I don't know if empathy is the right word, but I had so much wonder that it was overwhelming.

As we were almost done eating this man and his wife got up and started to leave. They talked about grabbing food for their "girls" at home and he started to say goodbye to my dad when my dad replied, "have a good life" and with that one singular line I lost it.

When the man and his wife left my dad turned back towards me and said, "Aaron, is something wrong? You look as if you're about to cry." and he was right; I was. There was so much stuff going through my mind that I couldn't control my emotions. This was such a difficult time because with that line the realization that this moment was lost to time and that this man who shared road conditions and showed a true caring on our well-being was gone. Will I see this person again? I knew the answer, statistically, was a resounding "no."

I tried to refocus my mind but it wasn't possible. There were other moments in my life like this and the biggest one that comes to mind was when I was perhaps eight years old and so and we were driving back from my grandma's in Nebraska to home in Indianapolis and my dad was talking to this trucker on the CB radio. This conversation lasted for many, many miles and eventually one of us took a exit and goodbyes were said and I knew the finality of this moment and I didn't take it well.

Is this empathy? I truly wondered who this man was that was wishing us the best. Why couldn't I breathe? Was it too much emotions, or feelings? I had to do everything I could not to just break down and this was odd because 15 minutes prior I didn't even knew this man existed and now he was gone. Is this another reason I try to keep my world small? Because, if it is, then moments like this won't happen and moments like that are to the brink of being overwhelming.

As for now, and today, the Thanksgiving traditions of the past 13 years will take place but my mind is still back in Cumberland at that Roy Rogers in the pouring rain with a bone piercing chilly wind. Who was that person? What type of life had he lived? So many questions but the answers will never be told. 


  1. You are amazing. It was such a thrilling experience to be on the track with you in Vegas at the SuperNats (see his previous post), but even more thrilling to read this post. You often say in your presentation that you walk with your head down so you don't make eye contact with people. Last night it was like you were walking with your head down and saw a rock that no one would notice. It just happened to be a diamond. Keep finding those diamonds that you can share with the world.

  2. I used to drive years and years ago. I drove a car, not a big rig, but for a while I was driving to Memphis, TN and back to St. Louis Monday through Friday. This was back in the mid to late 80's so there were no cell phones around. To pass the time I bought a real nice CB radio and had many conversations with OTR truckers. I got to know several of them by their "handles" and one or two by their real first names. We'd have conversations that some nights lasted a few miles and other nights would last almost the whole drive one way. After I left that job I missed some of those guys something fierce. I guess it's the equivalent of meeting someone on the internet today and having conversations without ever actually meeting each other.

    We go through our entire lives meeting people and making connections. Sometimes (most times?) these connections are fleeting and they're done and gone. And other times, for whatever reason, they stick with us hard.

    I agree with your dad that you just need to remember those moments with fondness and yes, with a degree of emotion, which I know you're not used to. There's nothing wrong with walking with your head down as long as you remain aware of your surroundings without being overwhelmed by them.

    Aaron, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving holiday and hope to see you back here soon.