I’m reclined in the driver’s seat, half laying on my side, flicking my eyes across the tablet’s screen as I flip through the paper. I hear a horn, and the noise startles me - the roads are so quiet these days. You don’t even hear the hum of motors very often, now that most cars are electric, and driverless. Occasionally, a hot rodding fanatic will zip by in a classic of some sort, revving the engine. It’s a sight to behold. Last week, for example, a bright red sports car flew past my window so loud and so fast that by the time I sat up and looked out, it was a red blur in the distance.
I heard him shouting, though.
He called us zombies.
“Can’t drive any faster, zombies?”
Yeah, that was it. Lunatic.
This time, I catch the culprit. It’s no sports car, but one of those sad-looking, gas-powered ones. A station wagon even, showing a bit of rust. His turn signals don’t seem to work, so none of the self-driving cars are letting him merge. He’s using hand signals, but no one was looking at him. And so the horn.
He’s right by me.
I sit up and tap the brake slightly. The station wagon veers in front me.
What, not even a thank you? I scoff, before realizing that his car obviously isn’t wired to send the courtesy alert to my dash. As my car’s engine slows, reacting to my foot’s tap, I feel my heart start to race a little, the way it always does when my feet are on the pedals.
I’m anxious. I quickly press the green button and feel the calming slight shift which means the car is back in charge.
I exhale, then lean back again, tablet still in hand.
Where was I? Oh right. The words “the economy reacted…” flash briefly, drawing me back to where I left off. The last words I read, at least according my lenses, which have actually gotten much more accurate since the last update.
I blink. The page turns.
Next to me, Emily shifts in her sleep, her long sleeves pushed up above her wristband, glowing blue in the still gray morning light. Amazing, I think. My cat naps in the car are a yellow at best. She sleeps deeply. Emily never takes advantage of the car ride for reading or music, or anything but sleep. She told me once that sleeping is a lost art, and that possibly will lead to the downfall of human society. She’s dramatic like that. “Who can live on four hours a night?”, she always complains. “I know they say they’ve figured it out, but those chips just don’t work. I mean, if all we need is four, then why does the extra hour make me feel so much better?” It’s her usual rant. “They just want us to work all the time. Well, they can’t have my commute. I’m holding onto my commute until they rip it out of my cold, dead hands.”
Emily had registered at work as driving a gas car, so they actually have no idea she sleeps while carpooling with me, or Jason, or Phil, or whoever else will agree to sit in her driveway for five minutes every morning while she fumbles around, running back in for her tablet, her coat, her handbag. The car never fails to beep with the “missing gadget” reminder alarm the minute she opens the door and plops down. She’s so consistently late that we always have to program in the speed/time adjustment in the car’s dash to compensate. And we’re always in the “catch up” speed limit lane, which I hate.
It’s the one the drivers use, and I just don’t trust them.
This week, I finally created an “Emily” setting which I enabled today. We’re in the catch up lane again, hence the horn.
I don’t want to read the news any more. It depresses me this morning. I look away, out the windshield at the road ahead.
I’m bored instantly.
Anything good?, I text to Jason in the back. In the rearview mirror, I see a glimmer as the message hits his glass. “Dude, you’ve got to hear this band,” he says, a little quieter than usual, so as not to wake Emily. “I saw them this weekend, and added them to my playlist immediately,” he raves. “They actually play their own instruments, and they play them hard. And no back-up tracks, either. It’s so raw. You’ll love it. This is the new sound, I’m telling you. Mark my words.”
I nod. It’s always something with him. Last month, it was air beats. That was just dumb. I’m sure there’s skill involved, but the musicians looked ridiculous waving their hands around like that.
The music from his playlist starts streaming in my ear. It sounds familiar somehow - like that classic rock ‘n roll my parents would put on when feeling nostalgic, maybe. What did they call it? Oh, grunge. Yeah, it sounds like grunge. It’s jarring, but I like it. The lyrics are mumbled. I can’t make them out. I watch as Jason is mouthing the words…”turn, turn, turn...”
And just then, Emily does. She turns over and sits up. “Are we there yet?”, she yawns. And of course we are. She never even uses a sleep timer, and always wakes up just as the car glides into its port. Like she has an internal clock or something.
I gather my tablet and coat, and we all step out onto the platform. My glass buzzes. We have three minutes to reach the entry before a late clock-in. I roll my eyes at Jason and we begin to jog towards the doors. Emily laughs as we go. “What, you can’t lose a dollar?,” she yells. “I’ll buy your coffee at break, guys, I swear.”
“It’s the least you could do!”, I shout back as I move forward into the cold, morning air.