Last Saturday the Physicist and I decided to go on a road trip to Birmingham. We had no particular reason other than wanting a nice lunch and a stopover at our favorite grocery store, Whole Foods (why can't Whole Foods come to the Madison/Huntsville area? Again a shameful plea on my part) to get cheapo wine and goodies.
Rather than take the freeway, we opted to take the scenic route and drove through small towns via Highway 31. The drive was lovely and stress free. Occasionally, we would have to slow down and stop when we entered the small towns that lined the route, but we didn't mind. It was interesting to see how these towns were doing along this route. Eventually we were dumped into the freeway via a forced entry and we were back to going fast, rushing past exit signs to towns that dot the state of Alabama's map.
The drive only added an extra half an hour to our travel time. It also afforded us a chance to look at something different than our backyard and our neighbors. But it also gave me a glimmer of nostalgia. Although I think freeways have made it easier for people to travel great distances, I wonder how this modern convenience has impacted local economies of the small towns we no longer travel through in our hurry to get from Point A to Point B.
The sight of some of the unkempt storefronts saddened me. As did the loss of the local flavor one gets from stopping at a local diner for lunch and being served by someone who isn't wearing a fast food uniform. Sure the fast food restaurants popping up at all the exits bring money to these towns, but I remember eating at many diners and little shops when I was a child. How many personalities have we missed truly meeting because of the anonymity of the Fast Food Uniform.
I'm not advocating going backward, but occasionally it's nice to meander instead of to dash. And I think the fine art of meandering has been lost to many of us in this country. Well, lost to many except for maybe teenagers, but even they are more busy and active in this time than when I was a kid. I guess I am just wistful for the times when we actually broke bread with our neighbors because we wanted to and not because a weather event like the 2011 tornadoes forced us out of our homes and into our lawns where we actually saw each other.
In a way, I think social media is to social lives what the freeway system is to small towns. Faster contacts, sound bites, and flashes of information have taken over sitting down and chatting over a cup of coffee while watching kids play in the backyard or run through sprinklers.
Though I appreciate speed, and I am the first to admit I'm not the most patient person on the planet (though the flip side of that poor character trait coin is that I get things done fast and on time and respond quickly to others -- take the bad with the good I always say), there are times when I just enjoy taking it a little slower. I like taking the road less traveled, picking up the phone and having a long chat with a friend, and taking the time to cook a meal or host a party where people actually come to my home and use my good dishes.
So do we turn back the hands of time and reverse all the modern conveniences of life? No. I would be lost without air conditioning, a car, my trusty laptop, and my many virtual friends in the cyber world. However, I suggest that seeking a balance which includes both worlds might be a good way of living.
So I choose to drive the road less traveled whenever I need a real person, real life, and real experience to recharge my batteries.
How do you recharge your mental and emotional batteries?