Sunday, November 29, 2009


That good and talented Doctor of American Literature, Professor Linda Westervelt of the University of Houston waxes poetic and calls it Diamonds and Rubies – the headlights and tail lights of traffic going to and from somewhere on some major roadway. This last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, for me it was Interstate 45, the primary artery between Dallas and Houston, Texas. The traffic was wall to wall - a solid ribbon of cars for those 247 miles from far north Dallas to downtown Houston where these two great cities were seemingly swapping populations. From afar it looked like a solid mass, a slithering serpent, a train winding its inexorable way: an organized coherent, sentient self to and from two of the major cities of our country. Well, it wasn’t.

A closer look inside the belly of that serpent reveals that there were, responsible and not so responsible drivers - sober and drunk/impaired, frenetic and anxious folks driving too close, too fast or too slow, lane changing to the point of danger, lots of craziness - meaning that you had to be extra vigilant in order to assure your arrival – even survival.

There were surprisingly few visible police though the occasional red and blue flashing lights only revealed the remnants of several auto accidents along the way. I did see some familiar Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) vehicles monitoring the roadway. Nice to know that we were being watched (The Eyes of Texas) though even with the threat of stiffer fines a less visible law enforcement was the cue for some folks to drive even more irresponsibly. The biggest initial hurdle was just getting out of Dallas and the Central Expressway corridor which lived up to it name as one of the largest parking lots in North Texas…

In 2008 we were told that our Thanksgiving tradition of traveling over hill and dale to grandmother’s house would take a major hit - there would be less of us on the road. Well, we know that due to the economy, air traffic was down (still is) with folks choosing to pay utility bills, mortgages and put food on the table and stay at home. By 2009 with more stable gas prices we appear to have opted for cross city, cross state or cross country dashes by automobile. For example, a fellow worker left Dallas on Thursday morning for New Orleans to be with Family – a 523 mile, eight hour trip – leaving at four in the morning and arriving around noon. That is a special Family… Motivation aside, it would have been a wonder if our roads could have accommodated any more vehicles.

According to the American Automobile association (AAA) more people traveled this year than last – with some 38.4 million Americans trekking at least 50 miles from home for the Thanksgiving weekend with the average distance being an impressive 815 miles. In our widespread Texas that computes to a 7.5% increase over last year.

While travel by air is diminishing some of that is due to rightsizing and decreased capacity witness some of the horrific delays recently encountered by the airlines. Along with the automobile, travel by train, boat and bus is expected to increase and may be yet another harbinger that the worse is behind us.

No doubt that basics will remain the priority and that travel is now seen as a luxury item. Even with that it would appear that most folks are trying to find way to be with Family and Friends for Thanksgiving. Whether you are American, Canadian, Scottish, Russian, Chinese, German, et al these cultures place a high premium on the celebration of Family so this evolution back to the nuclear hearth is not surprising. The pendulum does swing back and forth with even the anticipation of the sights and sounds of the holidays stirring mostly pleasant feelings in all of us.

I wonder if the current economic situation might prompt a continuing priority to embrace Family and Friends. Seems that this is all about reconnecting, building positive relationships and a return to basic positive core values and where we (should) have been all along. The trip to Houston was great and the opportunity to share the holidays with Family and Friends was especially enriching, enjoyable and meaningful even as an active spectator in Houston’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For us here in Texas travel is an integral part of everyday life. Whether it costs more or less, I am always going to find a way to be with Family and Friends during the holidays.

Let’s all go out and create some meaningful holiday memories. I am going to at least wish Brother John best wishes on a significant rite of passage. Anybody up for helping serve a meal at a homeless shelter or visiting a senior center? Yes, they’re Family too.

Diamonds and Rubies, Aye,

Ned Buxton

No comments: