Friday, November 29, 2013

My Life In America- Holiday Edition

Crossing a bridge into downtown Kansas City
 
The car in front of me drives through the intersection and stops.  The lane ahead is full.
 
I pause at the crossroad, brake at the white line.  The car in the lane beside me stops too.
 
We wait 1-2-3 beats before our light turns red.
 
We don't honk, gesture, slap the steering wheel.  We don't accelerate into the space between two vehicles, block the intersection or flash our headlights.  We don't hop the curb.  We don't drive on the sidewalk or median.  We don't get out of our cars and wave our arms at the injustice of this forced lesson in patience.
 
We wait.
 
Lights change on the right, left, in front.  Cars, trucks, vans, SUVs take turns moving through the intersection.  Merging happens: first one, then the next, then another, vehicles unite in moving traffic, mixing seamlessly like the teeth in a zipper.
 
A song plays on the radio, something about love, peace, God.  There are plenty of other programs to choose from: rap, metal, opera, talk shows, gossip, news, politics, entertainment - but I like this music.  The car's heater hums.  The clear blue winter sky is framed by ice defrosting on my windshield.  The temperature gauge reads 15F (-9.44C).  My hands are toasty in heavy cotton gloves, but the tip of my nose is cold.
 
My light turns green.  The lane ahead of me is empty.  I move my foot to the gas pedal.  The car beside me advances; I accelerate too.
 
Family night in America
 
It seems that life in America is easy as long as you follow the rules:  stop at the red light, don't block the intersection, wait your turn, pay your bills, don't steal, respect others' rights, keep your hands to yourself.
 
Here, public restrooms (almost) always have toilet paper.  (Sometimes there are second and third rolls and extra under the sink too.)
 
In My America, there are winter trees, crispy leaves, flowers, yards and neighborhoods without walls.
 
 
There are sidewalks where people walk, jog.  Strangers who smile, say, "hi!" and "I hear we might get snow" and "did you know you dropped something?"
 
Medicines are available for purchase in the local grocery.  Cashiers, salesmen and women and service people everywhere smile, say, "How can I help you?"  And mean it.
 
 
In My America there are people of every color, shape, size, religion, culture, disposition.  There are agreers and disagreers, saints and sinners, lovers and haters.  Bars in airports and movie theaters, bibles in motels and gas stations.  Cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, non-denominational meeting halls.  Men and women, men and men, women and women.  Martha Stewart, Howard Stern, X Factor, XXX, Disney Channel.  CNN, ABC, Fox News; rich, poor, haves, have nots, hard workers, hardly working-ers, Republicans and Democrats.
 
My America is a mish mash of people, ideologies, lifestyles, attitudes.  It snows in My America.  People get the flu, bump heads, disagree and sometimes, even, run red lights.
 
It's not perfect.  But - it's home.
 
 
Happy Holidays, America.  I've missed you.
 
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