I get car sick. It's always been a thing (definitely for my parents, but, hey, I'm the youngest of three, so they knew the job was dangerous when they took it), but it seems to be getting worse with age.
I notice it most when I'm a passenger in a car and I'm called on to find the hours of operation for a business or to program in an address on my phone. Then, it becomes a race to see if I can get the numbers in before that queasy feeling in my stomach starts. Thankfully, I'm pretty good at winning the race, but my time may be coming.
In the exhaustive research I've done on the topic (OK, again, Google), I've learned the issue isn't one of motion, but of confusion. Your brain notices you're focused on a static thing in front of you, but it also senses you're in motion. It doesn't exactly know what to do with that information, so it makes you throw up. Which, again, about that whole "intelligent design" thing ...
That's probably a barely accurate and not at all scientific explanation, but I do notice when I quit reading in the car, things seem to work out. And I fall asleep almost instantly. OK, it doesn't really explain that, but I figured I'd piggyback it in there and hope no one notices, at least on long car trips. "No, no, honey, I'm not falling asleep on you. It's science!"
I've been accused of over-reliance on metaphors in the past (hey, I'm from Oklahoma: we can find symbolism in a phone book), but I get the feeling that entire concern – distress being generated by a disconnect between what we know to be true and what we see happening – explains a lot these days.
Tradition holds that the year begins chronologically on Jan. 1 and meteorologically in the spring, but for me, the year begins in the fall. As a parent, it's when the kids went back to school, the house shook off the lazy slumber of summer and we all got back to work.
And that was a good thing. School triggered a lot of activities, since it's the centerpiece of most communities. And, as a Southerner, fall meant football, one of the best reasons for living.
Now I can see the clock has ticked, the calendar has flipped and it's almost fall again. But it doesn't feel right. Schools are opening, sort of and for how long, lots of kids are resuming class at the dining room table and parents are all worried if they're making the right decision, whatever that decision was.
Tailgating is out, along with about 75% of the crowds and several conferences. The games will start, but for how long?
Our brain says it's normal, Our eyes say it's not.
We're about to go on vacation – the benefit of being "empty-nesters" with grown children largely unencumbered by the constraints of the school calendar. As in the past, I'm already worrying about all stuff I'm going to forget that I'm have to buy once I get there and whether the rental looks as nice as it did in the pictures and what sort of battle is going to ensue over bedrooms (just push the twin beds together: we're here to have fun, not sleep!").
But this year I'm also worried about more viral things. Can we find places to stop on the way down? Did they clean the rental properly? Will they be wearing masks where we're going? Do our favorite restaurants have take-out?
All of which boil down to one thought: Is it safe?
I look at case counts and second-wave projections and local hospital ER capacity and all the other concerns (and that doesn't even include sharks and jelly fish and the odd pop-up hurricane) and my brain tells me one thing and my eyes tell me another.
We drive around and the flowers still look pretty and the grass has remained green and we know the leaves will start to turn and that it will all still be beautiful. But we also know there is something out there and we don't understand it, how to prevent it or even completely what to do if we get it.
The world looks normal, our eyes tell us. Our brains tell us something else.
I get car sick. A little upset to my stomach, a little headache, but I get over it pretty rapidly once my eyes and my brain get in sync and things start making sense.
In the world outside the car, I don't think that's going to be happening any time soon.
Gary Smith is a recovering journalist living in Rogers.