The Ride

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September 15, 2002

4:35 P.M.

“Star 94 FM Real-time Traffic…those heading northwest on Peachtree Industrial should expect major delays due to a gas leak….”

I abruptly change the radio station. What luck! I have moved exactly one mile in ten minutes. My first car, the epitome of self-liberation, has confined me in a ten-by-five-foot box. The heat is unbearable; the air outside is stagnant; the air conditioning offers little relief. I roll up my pant legs, take off my socks, secure my hair in a ponytail, and sink into my sweat-drenched seat.

Today’s ordeal is pure frustration. My obligations begin to float and jumble in my mind: trigonometric problems, an English paper on The Crucible, an outline about China’s WTO accession. I have to get home. If I do not complete these assignments I will face dire consequences…zeros, failing classes, expulsion from school, rejection from colleges…

The clock reads 5:16. Any other mode of transportation would have gotten me home by now. My thoughts begin to wander, and I recall the vehicles that carried me here from my hometown, Yuci, years ago: a bus to Taiyuan, a train to Beijing, an airplane to Memphis, a family sedan to Atlanta. Sitting miserably in my car, awash in these memories, I realize I...

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