I opened the front door and the cold hit me. I stepped out into it. The sun was just coming up in San Antonio, and the outside colors were muted and tending toward the grayscale. We live a short distance away from Loop 410, the Alamo City’s inner ring road, and I could hear, even as I walked down the sidewalk toward the truck, a roar—the collective voice of a million cars being pushed along by human beings.
It was cold as I slid into the seat, closed the door, inserted the key, and fired up. I shivered, blew steam from my mouth. I punched a button that would, in a few minutes, get heat going into the cab. The truck was ready now, so I released the handbrake, put it in reverse and left.
I know a way to avoid the nearby school zone. San Antonio is a big city that is filled with people, many of whom have children. For the commuter, school zones mean slowing down and pausing for buses and children crossing streets. For the commuter, these delays are maddening. What we commuters turn into, at 7 a.m., is something single-minded and harried. We curse those things we would normally tolerate. We become something other than what we naturally are.
There is a moment, shortly after I turn off Marbach Road, when I can see the on-ramp to Loop 410. I punch it then and my machine, made by the Nissan Corporation, makes a guttural sound. I feel like an astronaut in the early moments of liftoff. The force of acceleration pushes my head back as I rocket toward the great flow of vehicles.
I know this route and routine well. I am one of a million now, jockeying for position, weaving in and out, and watching for signs of danger. We are heading south. Soon, I will make the big eastward turn and the sun, just peeking above the horizon, will cause me to squint. The sky is becoming more interesting, moment by moment. I would love to spend more time studying its shapeshifting clouds and nuanced colorations, but I have to remain wary. Surrounded by these machines, madness, and speed, anything, at any time, could happen.
We pass by all sorts of landmarks, including the factory that puts out plumes of steam or something else. The place produces God knows what. It marks the moment we turn toward the east, and I adjust the visor to keep my eyes shaded. What I am witnessing now, all around me, in this great flow of machines, is the human condition writ large.
I eventually take the Palo Alto College exit and the frenzy dies down. I have a left turn to make and then two right ones. A sign tells us we may drive our machines at forty miles per hour but no faster than that. I make those turns and then pull into a lot where I turn the key in the ignition, putting my machine to rest. Its engine pings and pops as it begins to cool down. It will spend the next few hours resting up and preparing to carry me home as the day moves from light to dark.
I envy my machine as I step away from it. It’s now my time to roar.