How to fill that long country-road ride to work

By Carolyn Bahm
Express Editor

Carolyn Bahm
Carolyn Bahm

Because I already had a home in Collierville when I took this job and because I’m reluctant to disrupt my younger daughter’s last few years in high school, I will be commuting to work for the foreseeable future. That works just fine for me.

As an introvert who doesn’t find a lot of “alone time,” I relish the long drive.

Instead of fretting over the lane-hopping highway drivers in Shelby County, I opt to take a slow back-roads route along the twisty Collierville-Arlington Road and then onto Highway 64. The teenaged me would be aghast at 52-year-old Carolyn, puttering along sedately in my little white sedan without an eight-track of the Commodores or ZZ Top blasting. The lead-footed driving of my youth has (mostly) disappeared, just like the massive 1977 emerald green Thunderbird in which I used to run the roads.

The drive today is quieter and slower. Much more peaceful.

The first half of my route — with its occasional stray goats, white roadside crosses, misty pastures, and Republican bumper stickers on rusty trucks — reminds me of the country roads where I grew up in rural Copiah County, Miss. The ride starts my day with a smile on my face.

And that ride is a nice chunk of time, with 40 minutes to sing (badly), sip my Snapple or yelp at my too-hot coffee, and gather my thoughts about the day ahead. Normally I would fill the commute as I did during the three years I worked on the Navy base in Millington — by listening to podcasts. I’ve got dozens of these free serial audio programs saved on my phone, covering fiction writing, stand-up comedy, liberal politics, mental health, inspirational topics, and science. I still love them all. But for this year, I’ve decided to save those topics for when I’m puttering around the house or running errands.

Instead, for 2014 I will be re-learning French while I drive. (If you know of my strong Southern accent, you may want to pause for a moment here to snicker.)

That plan may mean I can’t remember a word en français unless I’ve got a steering wheel in my hands, but I will nevertheless learn the language. I took years of it when working at Ole Miss (with a job benefit of two free classes each semester), and I was minimally conversational by the end. It’s sad to realize how completely all that vocabulary has been forgotten.

The learning plan is for more than occupying my time and satisfying my eternal curiosity. One of my “bucket list” dreams is to go to France – specifically Paris. I want to hit the museums, sip the wine, see the art, tour the catacombs beneath the streets, see the gorgeous old city in all its everyday glory, and even let the snobby natives laugh at my horrible French-mangling accent. This old dog learning a new trick is planning on making that dream come true.

Wish me bonne chance, won’t you?

Carolyn Bahm is the editor for The Bartlett Express; contact her at (901) 433-9138 (office), (901) 288-4070 (cell), or