Not-So-Cold Shoulder

The side of the highway is not where one expects anything meaningful to occur. It’s a place that exists entirely out of necessity, a place designed to only be relevant when something goes wrong. It’s a place of accidents, of malfunctions, of all the different little ways that unhappy coincidences can ruin days, months, lives. It’s the kind of place that one avoids going at all costs, and certainly not the kind of place one would expect to find anything worth writing happily about. But recently, it was just a bit more.

It was a pair of men, whose relationship I wouldn’t have been able to puzzle out even if I tried. Honestly, though, the most likely scenario was that up until the moment I witnessed they had never even laid eyes on each other. Both were dark-skinned and bearded, with dark eyes glittering in amusement, both standing outside of cars stopped on the shoulder, one of which had the hood popped, both leaning against the side of the other car, exchanging words and occasional laughter. And honestly, there was nothing more to see. Two men, standing casually on the shoulder of a highway, waiting for something, just talking and laughing together.

It was the sheer serendipity of the moment, the complete and utterly unexpected nature of their interaction, that brought a smile to my face. Here were two people who likely had never met before, who could have just as easily passed the time in their cars waiting for whatever it was that approached, as would have been the instinct of almost every one of us. All of the sudden I wanted to know everything about how the two had arrived at that point: what had brought them each to that part of the highway, what had caused them to both pull on to that same stretch of shoulder, and what had spurred them to get out of their cars to spend those hours in each other’s company.

As they faded into the distance, my smile remained, kept there by the memory of two people who had, out of nowhere, engaged in a conversation they didn’t have to. That they chose to get out and connect with each other just to pass the time in a way that couldn’t help but be heartening and inspiring. It was moment in which the strange confluence of events that brought them together and their decision to connect as they waited was just as deep and wonderful and real to me as any aspect of my own life. It was a moment in which I truly wish I’d had a camera.

With excitement and optimism,

Alex