looking back

Sometimes when I drive somewhere, and I’m stopped at a red light, I look in the rear-view mirror at the people in the car behind me. Most people are very “normal” with blank expressions, sitting still, just waiting to keep driving; but sometimes they’re a bit more animated, and it can be amusing to watch, even just briefly.

I’ve seen one man swaying side to side, as if dancing, while his passengers sat motionless. I’ve seen people fidget and bite their nails and play with their hair. I’ve seen one-sided conversations, silent couples, and people who don’t seem to stop talking.

I’ve even seen a crying passenger (and a driver who was trying to console him). And then there was the couple who looked like they’d had an argument, and were decidedly not talking to each other.

I find it interesting how people can feel very protected in cars, like it’s a private room completely detached from the world around it. There’s something about being in a car with a close friend that just feels safe (which seems ironic considering how dangerous cars can be). It seems to be a good chance for meaningful conversations, particularly if you’re driving along a familiar route or a very long road where there’s not much to distract from the conversation.

When I look at these people, I wonder where they’re going, and what they’re doing. I wonder why the fidgeting people are so nervous, why the icy couple aren’t talking, why the passenger is crying.

I also sometimes wonder if the person in the car in front of me is peering back at me. Usually I give them a smile, so they can wonder what I’m smiling about.