Well, not across but….
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Sam and I took a road trip, which started in Michigan, zigzagged to Indianapolis and Atlanta, and ended up in Tallahassee. It was fun. It was tiring. And it was what most trips are; a reminder. Of one sort or another
The week prior to our trip, Sam’s best friend and her family visited us in Detroit. They happened to come in November, which is pretty unlucky for them. Not a stellar month in Michigan. It’s not summer, the beauty of fall has just faded, and the majesty of old man winter is yet to find us. November, generally, is a pretty “blah” month.
Regardless, they came to Michigan and visited as much as time allowed. Within a few minutes of meeting, Sam’s friend Jen told me that the roads in Michigan are terrible and the drivers are awful. Now, it’s a daily gripe for most Michiganders that our roads are perpetually under construction and seemingly never fixed. It’s an odd situation for a state which is the automobile capital of the world. A conspiracy, my wife even suggests. So, I could really only laugh when Jen made her declaration. As for the drivers, I deal with commuter traffic every day, so I can’t say that I really love drivers around here; but I did wonder, ARE MICHIGAN drivers worse than drivers elsewhere?
…And up popped our road trip.
Let me be the first to inform the masses of this shocker; drivers everywhere suck. Maybe, as Jen and Sam suggest, drivers in Texas are a polite exception, but the majority of drivers we encountered all the way south, made many Michigan drivers look tame.
It’s a bit of a relief, actually. Since Michigan, and particularly the Detroit area, seems to get a bad rap for everything, it’s almost refreshing to know others at least “suck as bad” as we do behind the wheels. Being a Michigan driver in Ohio is by far the scariest part of our journey. The speed limits change going in or out of the state and there is a self-imposed belief that Ohio cops keep an eye out for nasty Michiganders. So, I worked my hardest to stay at the speed limit, as Ohioans zipped past me on both sides. No signals. Zigging. Zagging. Crazy insanity; to be sure.
Regardless of speed limits and driving habits, we are all more alike than we are different.
We have all heard, repeated at nausea, of the blight in Detroit. We know of the half vacant neighborhoods, the empty houses, and the abandoned buildings. If you have ever driven anywhere around or within the city, you have seen it. And if you have ever watched any sporting event, news program, or shows about Detroit, the blight is a center story. So, the sad truth is not overlooked. And most people hear about it, frequently.
What was particularly interesting to Sam and I on our road trip, however, was the blight we saw along the way. We drove through a portion of Toledo that we both swear looked identical to Detroit. And Cincinnati; from the freeway we saw busted out windows, abandoned buildings, and a large skew of graffiti.
But with both Toledo and Cincinnati, we simply drove through and around the city. We didn’t stop. We didn’t explore. We didn’t “get to know” either town. Without sincerely evaluating these places, I’m left with a bleak drive by opinion. And I’m pretty sure that’s what many people have of Detroit; drive-by opinions.
And though Sam was less than pleased with OH from the freeway view, when we traveled some non-highway roads during the first leg of our trip, we experienced some quaint and beautiful back roads and small towns of OH. It’s all in the variety of roads you choose to travel.
And just the opposite could be true, as well. Driving through the mountains of Tennessee from the freeway, we were left with a rather positive impression of the state of Tennessee. How could those mountain-view roads do anything different? But, who knows what we would really find if we got off the road and explored more; maybe more beauty, maybe not. Our impression is completely due to our limited view (good or bad).
This week, Jared Allen, of the Minnesota Vikings slam basted Detroit, not only saying how it sucks, but that he would drown himself in the river if he had to live here. Surely, this is merely his opinion and he’s “apparently” entitled to such. Probably a better opinion left to oneself, but that’s another topic. I’m sure if Jared Allen has only driven from the airport to the stadium, and never ventured out into the city and surrounding areas, he has probably only noticed the depleted and defeated. He may only see the abandon buildings along the highway, on gloomy November or December weekends. That’s a shame really, for him.
The truth is, what you see, depends on where and how you look. That’s the truth of looking at Detroit, Metro Detroit, Michigan, Toledo, or Florida. It’s the truth looking at any places and people along the way. What you see in life depends on where and how you look. We all know the saying “glass half full, or half empty.” But I add in, full or empty of what?
I admit that I typically see the positives in the world around me. I’d say I “try” to see the positive, but that’s false. There is no trying in positivity. There is merely being positive. Even though my nature looks for the bright spots, I don’t avoid the bleak. I don’t miss the blight. And it’s not an either/or, black and white proposition. You can see the blight of Detroit, while still keeping its beauty and spirit in full view. You can drive through scary streets in southern Toledo, all while still remembering that your limited view is just that; limited. You can be a professional football player and travel into a city one day a year and never leave your hotel room; but know that all you are really seeing are the same limited walls around you.
What we all see depends on where and how we look. What we see in ourselves, in each other, and in the world we share, depends on where and how we look.
When I was a kid, I loved the movie Vacation with Chevy Chase. I must have watched it 100 times, and that is truly no joke. I’ve since watched it a few times as an adult, and although it still charms me, it probably isn’t as meaningful as it seemed years ago. Regardless, I still love the premise of the road trip. I still love the wonderful variety of American roads, and American vistas. And I still love the theme song from Vacation; nothing better than dancing your way across the USA.
While we are at it, we should all dance our way through our lives. Turn the music on and get those feet moving, the view is pretty nice from the dance floor!