The Joy of Driving Yourself to Work This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 7, 2013
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It was a cold morning on March 13, 2010, as Jonathan Melanchoil departed for work. He left his apartment at around two in the morning. The sky was pitch black. Not a single star was visible by the naked eye from where he was standing. The keys to his old Toyota Carina were, for some strange reason, especially cold tonight. The air was stale, his eyes watery, as he prayed to just make it through the day. After a moment, no longer, of praying for decent day, he got into his car and drove off to work.

All the street lamps were lit in a neat line. "That's how you can tell," Jonathan said, "the difference between man made stuff and natural, man made stuff is always in a neat little pattern and natural stuff ain't." He was speaking to himself, but justified doing it by pretending his late son was beside him listening. Even though he wouldn't do it often, this was not a relatively strange thing for him to do. His son died three years ago the week before his birthday. He was hit by a drunk driver. His then wife told Jonathan that his son was out buying him a gift when it happened. He was in a denial of sorts of that fact. Even though he knew it was true, the thought of his son dying that moment, in that way, because of a mere coincidence is more than he could bare.

He was driving a little under 80 miles per hour on the highway. He had to take the highway every day to work. The only work he could find was far away from where he lived. Jonathan had been a construction worker in the city for nearly two and a half decades. He enjoyed his job more than he would admit to his friends. Most people perceive construction work as a hassle, but Jonathan liked having a physically involved job. He would always recall how in High School he despised nearly ever subject. He didn't dislike school due to laziness or poor work ethic, rather he disliked it because he was never the fastest learner. He remembered one English teacher he had that would make him memorize Shakespeare quotes. He could still recite random parts of Hamlet's soliloquy.

Sometimes to clear his mind he would think of the meaning behind Hamlet's monologue. Like the way certain people think of dilemmas to clear their mind. One of the few dilemmas that always came to Jonathan's mind was "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" He never quite understood that one. He always just assumed that if something fell it made a noise, no further questions.

To the right of him he saw a deer just outside the forrest. This caused him to think about animals in general, and then about zoos. "I should have taken you to the zoo more often. I know how much we both like animals," Jonathan said. When Jonathan's son was little he loved animals, especially llamas. Over dinner Jonathan's son would tell his parents random facts about llamas. Jonathan thought it was the cutest thing in the world, and would even tell his work buddies what his son taught him. As his son grew older, he would stop bragging about his knowledge of llamas, but Jonathan always knew that little boy who was ready to tell you a million of facts about the animal was somewhere still inside his son.

There were barely any cars on the highway when the thought of Julianne came into his mind. He tried not to think of her with every ounce of mental strength in his body. He tried not to think of her bright red hair, or her deep blue eyes. Most of all, he tried not think of the way she said things. Julianne was the one person Jonathan ever met that was able to say something in a sarcastic voice but have what she said received in a positive way. Remembering that was even more painful than recalling her suicide following their son's death.

Right before all these thoughts flooded into his mind, a hitchhiker from up the highway caught Jonathan's attention. He was wearing a black leather jacket with dark green checkered pants. Even though the man's clothes could fit someone twice his width, he didn't looking like a complete mess. Jonathan pulled over and the man happily leaped into the car.

The hitchhiker's name was Kenneth Williams, and he reeked of alcohol. Jonathan immediately regretted picking him up. Jonathan couldn't stand even the thought of alcohol after his son's death.

Rather than Jonathan ask Kenneth questions, Kenneth immediately wanted to know Jonathan's life story. He asked ever question from "Where were you born" to "What brand of underwear do you think is the best." After what seemed like an hour long questioning session, Jonathan began to wonder what was Kenneth was doing near the highway. Apparently, Kenneth woke up there and was wondering the same thing.

In the middle of their conversation, the question arose of exactly what Kenneth did for a living. Kenneth's reply was simply that he did, "a variety of odd jobs." Jonathan assumed this meant that he wanted to avoid answering the question. Kenneth further stated, "As a kid I had a good family and all, I just couldn't decide what to be." Jonathan out of weariness and playfulness immediately said, "Or not to be. That is the question."

Suddenly, out of no where Kenneth recited the whole speech! Rushing through it, line by line, phrase by phrase. Jonathan was stupefied by the precision of his memory so early in the morning. Jonathan sat quietly for a moment before asking how exactly he knew the soliloquy. Kenneth simply shrugged his shoulders in response. Jonathan bragged that he knew it too. Kenneth took a deep breath and said, "Well, everyone and their Grandmother knows the damn soliloquy. Knowing the words does not matter, knowing the meaning does."

Oddly enough, Jonathan had no clue what was actually the meaning behind the words. Sincerely, he asked Kenneth what he thought the meaning was. Kenneth grinned and says, "It is a long story, but pretty much Hamlet is contemplating whether it is better to be alive or dead. I suppose though, the true meaning is what you make out of it." After a pause, Jonathan asked, "Well which one is it?" Eagerly, Kenneth responded, "Exactly!" Needless to say, Jonathan was more than a little confused, but he didn't care enough to inquire about it anymore.

When they arrived in the city, it was sunrise. Kenneth out bursted, "See that is what life is all about!" Confused, Jonathan replied, "What is?" Kenneth laughed and said, "The sunrise silly! Life is about appreciating the small things. The things everyone takes for granted. Every morning we have a little miracle in our backyards and what do people do? They sleep right through it." Jonathan never really noticed the beauty of the sunrise. A few minutes later they reached where Kenneth wanted to be dropped off. Kenneth thanked Jonathan for the ride and left. And like that, the two of them never saw one another again.

When Jonathan parked near where he would be working, it hit him. The whole "to be or not be," is what you make of it. Each day is your own and you decide not only to live or not to live, but to be happy or not to be happy.

Jonathan upon reflect stated, "Maybe today isn't going to be such a bad day after all." But he didn't say it to his son, nor his wife, nor the memory of Kenneth; he simply said it to himself, for himself.

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