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The autobahn is getting tedious. The glowing yellow wheat fields that stretch far on both sides are losing their luster. Exit signs and overpasses make a monotonous rhythm. My VW bus labors along in the right lane at a moderate 100 kilometers per hour. With a thundering whoosh that rocks the van, Audi’s and BMW’s pass me on the left as if I am parked. When I don’t see them coming it makes me jump, so I keep an eye on the mirrors. My arm hangs comfortably out the window and I let my hand dance playfully in the wind. I tilt my chin up to check my expression in the mirror. It’s weary. This is lonely drive.

On an oncoming overpass, I see a man standing over his bike frame. He’s watching the traffic move fast and beneath him. He’s the only one on the bridge. As he and his bike grow closer and higher, I consider waving. Then, still not having decided, I lock my arm straight and raise up my hand. The wind flutters my sleeve. In an instant, while dipping my head before I pass underneath him, I see his eyes facing me. But it’s too late, I’m gone.

As I come out the other side he is hidden from view by the width of the bridge. Then with distance growing between us, he and his bike rise from the railing. He has turned to face me now. I watch in my mirrors for a return gesture, but he only stands there motionless and with a curious look.

As he shrinks in my view, the secluded road starts to come back to me. But before my eyes give up hope, I glimpse a timid hand in the sky. I cast my arm out again and his arm becomes more assertive.

He is waving. We are confident now; happy and sure in our connection. I drive on and he watches me go.

There is something about the wave that was special. Maybe it was the oddity of it. Maybe the hesitancy that came before it. Whatever simple thing it was, it’s made me relieved and excited. Thinking about it is somehow compounding the feeling now Thoughts of such a simple happiness are makig me happier. It was only a wave, but it feels much larger in my mind. My breathing has widened and I feel my face stretch out and so I sit up straight to check the mirror again. I am smiling wide now.

I think about how connecting with people and strangers, beyond language, cultures or anything that keeps us from normally doing so is everything I travel for. Driving on through the glowing yellow wheat fields that stretch far on both sides of the autobahn and being eager for what might come next, I’m delighted at the thought that all I need to travel is a stranger standing on a highway overpass.

7 Thoughts on “Overpass”

  1. -eric- Says:

    1. It’s about time you wrote something

    2. This may be my favorite IWSTW post yet. Completely reminded me of Thailand. Remember when we were trying to ride the subway near Siam Square and we were so confused? We were standing at the turnstile and the guy in the booth somehow knowing where we needed to be just pointed to the train pulling up right at that moment. I gave him a hands-together-and-bow thank you as we jumped through to catch the train and he returned it instantly. There was zero spoken dialogue, but our intentions were so obvious and our connection was perfectly timed and seemed almost choreographed. By far one of my favorite, most vivid memories of that trip. Don’t take for granted the ability to find happiness in such simple moments.

  2. UT Says:

    Are you bipolar? Sad and miserable then you wave to some guy and you become gleefull. Are you in a van or on a rollercoaster?

  3. kevin Says:

    Finally. I enjoyed this entry alot. As Eric stated “Don’t take for granted the ability to find happiness in such simple moments.” Your writing is on point…..thanks for letting us in on something simple yet comforting.

  4. Suzy Says:

    hehehehe, whoever UT is made me crack up… What kind of a comment is that? I agree with Eric, it is about time! smiles, nods, hand waves and facial expressions are useful tools when communicating with people from any background. TOO much of it can be a bad thing too…some cultures dont like too much eye contact…etc. Are you heading to the Berlin Wall?

  5. Cheryl Says:

    I’m sure your simple gesture left the stranger with a smile as well. You felt better, hopefully he felt better and it carried through the remainder of the day.

  6. Diane Ferrara Says:

    I love, love , love that you write so beautifully about connection – the epitome of what makes us human.

  7. Swan Says:

    This is beautiful writing, John.
    It’s interesting how a simple wave could have such a significant impact from one human to another.

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