Riding in Cars

Humans are social creatures. With that being the  case, we see other people, all day, every day. We see people at the grocery store, and when we pick up our children from school. We see people pumping gas, holding hands with their loved ones, exercising, laughing, and talking on their cell phones. We can pick up on their moods with just a glance. The sadness etched into the face of the old man buying flowers, or the impatience of the lady in the checkout waiting while a customer counts change to pay for their purchase.

I am a known people watcher. I watch people everywhere I go. I know when they are in pain by the slight limp they have when they are walking in front of me. I know when a mother is up to her wit’s end because her children bicker back and forth about one thing or another. Her hair is rumpled, her clothing disheveled. She isn’t a slob she is a mom.

The best place to people watch is while you are riding in a car. I do not drive very often so I have the great opportunity to stare at the people going by in a blur from the comfort of the passenger seat. Some people have their hands white knuckled on the steering wheel. I have seen women crying uncontrollably while they drive down the interstate. Couples laughing. The list goes on and on. I have seen every ethnicity. I have laughed at things they have done while they buzzed by. Waved at children, smiled at pets.

Yet, what I find the most interesting are the people who are in the back seat. They are in their own world. They could be staring blindly out the window lost in their own thoughts or desperately trying to be a part of the conversation that is going on in the front seat. Seeing people day after day, I think that we have grown accustomed to seeing so many people that we become numb to their existence. We, as humans, do not think further into the sideways glance at a passing stranger.

What if we knew where they were going? Would we put more thought into why other people are so sad?

I saw a blonde man about two weeks ago. I can still see his face. He wasn’t ugly and he wasn’t handsome, but what I saw when we drove side by side has affected me in many ways. He looked sad, worried, and like the whole world was crashing down on him while he rode quietly in the back seat. The two women in the front seat were talking lively, completely ignoring that fact that the man behind them was going through his own hell. His blue eyes looking blankly out the window, his long lashes dusting his cheeks. I stared at him. It seemed like twenty minutes passed by, yet it was only a few short seconds. His entire face was etched into my memory.The color of his eyes, and strong shape of his nose. I even remember his five o’clock shadow that peppered his chin.

Right before the woman driving pushed harder on the gas pedal and sped out of my sight, the man in the back seat glanced up at me. And smiled. His entire face changed. Gone was the worry and sadness that was so recently plastered on his face. He nodded his head once at me. Then he was gone forever. I am not quite sure why he made such an impact on me. I don’t know him. I don’t know his name, or where he lives. Yet, for a split second I wished that I was a photographer so that I could have captured his sadness. Then the moment he smiled and the sheer radiance of his smile erupted.

The picture I see in my head is beautiful enough to be hung in a museum where everyone can witness the wonder I feel while writing this. Even though he was broken apart by his own demons he managed a smile for a passing stranger. I regret not smiling back. I think part of me was shocked that he caught me staring at him, and the other part astonished that he changed before my eyes.

What if every time we looked at someone we smiled? I wonder if the world would be a better place to live in. A smile can change someone’s day. This man’s smile changed so much for me that it is hard to find words to express it.

The next time you are riding in a car, smile at the person that makes eye contact with you. Smile and pass on your radiance.

Until next time Humans.