We catch snippets of people’s lives as our cars race down the highway. Have you ever wondered about the stories behind such brief glimpses?
There is a backstory behind every event. A backstory is the background information concerning an event which gives the observer a better understanding of a situation. Sometimes, the backstory is not pleasant.
On a scorching summer day, Hubby waited in the car with the air conditioner running while I picked up a few items in the grocery store. A gaunt man approached him. “I ran out of gas on the highway. I’m worried about my wife and children stuck in the hot car. Could you spare a few dollars for gas?” Hubby gave him money. The man thanked him and walked away.
As luck would have it, Hubby was in the same grocery store parking lot several weeks later waiting to pick up our daughter from work. The same man walked up with the same bad luck story.
“Didn’t you tell me the same story about a month ago?” Hubby asked. The man spun around and hurried away.
If you did not know the backstory and just heard the last encounter, this tale would make you believe Hubby was heartless. Right? When, in fact, Hubby is a generous soul.
Life is like a bullet train that roars by us at breakneck speed. Consequently, the snippets that catch our notice are probably fewer than they should be. Shouldn’t the people around us be more than an afterthought?
There is a motorcyclist I see every morning on the way to work. Judging by his lived-in face, gray hair, and beard, he must be on the other side of 50. He wears a Harley-Davidson motorcycle helmet and rides a large, black motorcycle (could not tell you what make even if you tortured me). Over the years, shared experiences with yahoo drivers made us nodding acquaintances.
For some inexplicable reason, people forget that the interior of their vehicle is visible to the drivers around them. Drivers pick their noses with such gusto that their action appears to be a mining expedition. Some have a newspaper or an open book on the steering wheel. Watching and avoiding other crazy drivers must be too boring for them.
It is one thing to be seen lustily singing along with your car radio and quite another to be treated to a scene straight out of the Hatfields and McCoys. You cannot help but wonder about the cause of the fight and the outcome. One thing none of us in traffic want to witness is the escalation of a disagreement to a physical or lethal level.
Of course, byproducts of some events have backstories everyone knows without any explanation.
For example, large chunks of tires littering the highway are the results of a truck blowing a tire. That backstory is one we do not want to see up close because the flying debris could damage our cars.
Another byproduct requiring no elaboration is when a skunk goes to skunk heaven by vehicular skunkacide. Why? Well, grasshopper, the initial stench the skunk squirts into the air as its final gift to the universe is intense, lingering and gag worthy. But the carcass is also a gift that keeps on giving every time a vehicle rolls over it. The stench permeating the car requires no backstory.
There is one backstory this curious writer is itching to know. For months, each morning during rush hour, drivers pass a young man sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk near a manufacturing company with his backpack nearby. He is always looking down either reading or staring at his mobile phone.
The urge to stop some morning and ask him why he is sitting there was increasingly difficult to ignore. Will his ride take him to work or school, or somewhere fun? Nosey folks want to know.
One morning, his spot on the sidewalk was empty. Did the guy go off to college? Did he get a job? What happened to him?
Unsatisfied curiosity is like the eagle tearing at Prometheus’ liver. It never goes away.