February 18, 2009

Free Time?

Over the past year I've become a taxi driver who works over half the state. I drive to Trenton, Princeton, Lawrenceville, Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Marlton and even Philadelphia which isn't in the state, but as a child I assumed it was. I've driven right on through the gas price explosion and back again. I've driven a van so dirty from snowy highway mush that I had to stop and drive through a carwash just so I could see to drive back home. I've avoided a few real "close ones," I've observed a couple accidents, I've uttered a lot of, Git! Are you coasting??? What the! and Move it, Buster Brown! and Oops! Sorrrryyy!

I don't get paid for my services. If the job paid well or at all I might be able to justify what I do with my free time while the child I've taxied is in his appointment or class or session. For instance, in Lawrenceville I had quite a love affair with the Borders near the Quaker Bridge Mall. That was my time of memoirs and psychology books. It was a quiet time of reading, wandering, pondering, dreaming. (And buying books.)

In Princeton my free time was quite a bit shorter than that so I could only sit in the van and read (the books I'd bought in Lawrenceville.) Oh, there were a few times that I needed some lunch after an appointment in Princeton and found it repeatedly in a delightful little pub down a delightful little alleyway. Lucky for my hungry wallet, the delightful little gift shop we passed down the alley was closed by the time I'd finished my delightful little soup and salad.

In Cherry Hill I have three hours to kill. Three! This puts me in a bit of a spot. I can travel back down crowded highways the 30 minutes back home and then back again to pick up, or I can stay in Cherry Hill. The first day it was Crate and Barrel and the organizing store. Scarf hanger, belt hanger, key identifier thingys, rubber pastry brush. The next time it was The Christmas Store which has little to do with Christmas. Valentines for Sean's class, two door draft stoppers... I dunno, but I didn't get a cart purposefully, so I was carrying all the loot in my arms, which got ridiculous. Those draft stoppers are filled with sand! The next time I made myself go to the library and read. After going to Starbucks. And the Dollar Store where I didn't purchase anything because things weren't a dollar and there wasn't anything there I wanted. And the owner gave me bad vibes.

This last time in Cherry Hill I pondered seeing a movie. There weren't any at the right times. So I went to a Barnes & Nobles and bought a book about mindful eating. I really like it. It came with a cd which I listened to in the car as I drove around seeking, seeking, seeking....I ended up at a 7 11 and bought a bag of potato chips and a V8 which I mindfully ate as I read in a parking lot because it was President's Day and the library was closed. I tried to buy my chips in the CVS but the line was long, I mean painfully long, you could see it on the faces of the customers. There was a lady on a walker at the front of the line, leaning over the counter and the cashier was leaning over the counter toward her and it seemed they might be doing a crossword puzzle or looking for a contact. So I put the chips back and walked out, on to another adventure.

Last night I drove Seth to his SAT class which is 30 minutes away over crowded highways. It's a $1,000 class that he won from the guidance office at school. So we're actually saving money, right? I dropped him off, he said it'd be 3 hours this time. I was perplexed. Should I drive to Chuck E Cheese's 20 minutes away and pick up my Sean at a birthday party or allow the mom to take him home without a car seat, which I'd forgotten to give her for the trip up? Should I go to a library and finish 2 Chronicles which I've been sludging through forever? The library was further down crowded highways. I decided to stay up in Voorhees and star out by going to my favorite card shop to get a few cards for upcoming birthdays. This shop has the cutest, most original cards and paper - I pulled up and it is now out of business. Saved me 30 bucks. So I sat in that parking lot and considered the Borders across the highway. Coffee? nah. Latte? snore. Book? Jennifer!!!!! The green Barnes and Nobles bags floating around my van promptly hid under the closest seats. Even they know I have this shameful disease. ...Considered the library down the highway. Considered... oh heck, I'll go to ChuckE's. Began driving and had a potentially expensive thought, "HEY! There's a cool movie theater nearby, I'll see what's playing from 6 to 8!" Nothing. Saved me $20. Got back on the road to ChuckE's, wasting $$ in gas and wondering why it'd be okay to see a movie for two hours that costs the same as a book that I'd keep forever! Again, the green bags rustled and camouflaged themselves in the darkness of my van.

Picked up Sean. Brought him home. Stan had just arrived home from the field and was tired. Luke was doing his homework. I had some dinner, sort of mindfully. Drove back to Voorhees. The roads were clear. Everyone was done driving for the day. Except for me and my taxi. My free taxi delivering children to their important places and me to my free time which can be rather expensive.

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