Of “Drive Safe”

Road Sign.

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There are certain phrases we all say. Words that function like muscle memory. That are spoken without our brain having any choice in the discussion. So we say them, someone else says the appropriate words in response, and we continue on our way.

The phrase that I’ve been noticing the most, as of late, is drive safe.

“Alright, I’ll see ya later.”

“Bye, drive safe.”

“Okay, bye!”

Why do we say that? Do we honestly think that if we don’t tell them to drive safe that something horrid is going to happen to them? That they’ll be driving along and they’ll think to themselves, I wonder what would happen if I turned the steering wheel really fast – oh wait, I’m supposed to drive safe. That’s not very safe. Thanks friend.

The words are merely a filler, in the way that we ask acquaintances how they’re doing expecting to hear the response, “I’m fine.” Sometimes words are just that, things we say because it’s the cultural norm, it’s expected, and we don’t even realize we do it. So I’ve started saying different words:

“Alright, I’ll see ya later.”

“Bye, drive safe.”

“Damn, I was gonna drive ninety and backwards.”

Or

“Alright, I’ll see ya later.”

“Bye, drive dangerously!”

“Haha …… okay?”

I always get an awkward chuckle in response, suddenly, I’m seen as incredibly witty. And for what? Breaking our prescribed script. Changing up the normal conversation. If we all switched around our dialogue then one day simply saying, “Okay, bye,” would be seen as bizarre.

But what I find the most fascinating is that my changed words have become my script – it’s an inescapable cycle of habit.

Road Sign Swerve

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Of My Habitual Bookshelf

Book shelf

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My books are organized alphabetically – by title. Many book lovers I know take the time to arrange their books by genre, then by authors last name, and lastly by title. I’m not a library, there’s no need for me to so intricately categorize my books. When I’m in a literature mood I don’t browse based off genre, I think of the book I want and find it with ease. It didn’t occur to me until tonight that my bookshelf might be functioning as a hindrance to my reading life.

For you see, I’m a creature of habit, as many are. I order the same coffee almost everyday (double, 12oz, vanilla, latte, hot). I always go to the same restaurants and when I do I order the same food (I know it’s good, if I’m feeling adventurous I’ll take a bite of someone else’s food, my choice is a guaranteed success). I watch the same style of movie or TV show. I walk the same trails with my friends. I even play the same songs on the piano. I’m highly predictable – makes it easy to buy presents for me.

Tonight I was in a reading mood, so naturally I went to my bookshelf. It’s remarkable how many of my books I’ve never even read a page of, and I’d say half of the one’s that I have read were never finished. In theory, my unread bookshelf should give me a lot of options when picking out a book. But as I stared at the titles I kept flicking my eyes towards my favorites. Skimming over the titles that I really should read, since I own them, and pausing upon books that I have read multiple times. It took a lot of restraint to not grab The Giver by Lois Lowry for the fourteenth time and choose a new book. Well, new to me anyways.

Thanks to my self-control (and trust me, it was mentally tiring) I picked up White Oleander by Janet Fitch, a book that I’ve been meaning to read for years – and no, I’ve never seen the movie. Starting tonight I shall read this book I’ve never read, and who knows, someday I might be able to say I’ve read every book I own. Nah, probably not, I’ll shoot for 50%.

Maybe when my lease is up, and I’m once again forced to relocate my library, I’ll try a new method of organizing. Force myself to say, “I should read a fantasy novel,” and sift through that section. Instead of, “I’m going to read Looking for Alaska (by John Green) or Me Talk Pretty One Day (by David Sedaris) …. again.” 

And perhaps it doesn’t matter. Odds are, no matter what I do, I’ll still fall into the same habitual tendencies.