Monday, September 15, 2008

Songwriter on the Interstate

By Nichole Giles

The other day I got stuck in traffic. I’m not talking about a little bit of rush hour traffic in which you slow down to thirty or forty miles an hour, but good-old-fashioned-road-construction traffic in which you come to a complete stop and then inch forward slowly as traffic ten miles ahead of you bottlenecks into one lane. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in a hurry.

I was on my way to a conference, where I was staying the night—by myself so I could get some writing done—and the sun was out and my convertible top down, so I was in a pretty good mood. I popped in my Nickelback CD and cranked up the volume to deafening, hoping I wasn’t disturbing the people in the cars around me.
I was singing along, tapping to the beat on my steering wheel, and basically rocking out, when something ahead of me caught my eye. I couldn’t tell for sure at first glance, but it looked like someone had the neck of a guitar sticking out the driver’s window—which was down. I sped up, hoping to get closer because, well, I was curious. As I got closer, an arm came out, and fingers pressed the strings.

“Hm,” I said to myself. “Is that guy really playing the guitar while he’s driving?”

As luck would have it, the traffic in my lane moved forward at a little faster pace than the traffic in his lane, and eventually I caught up to the European compact with the guitar/hand sticking out. So, I turned off my music—for a minute—to see if I could hear.

Not only was the guy playing as he drove, but he was also singing at the top of his lungs. No exaggeration. He was two lanes over, and I could make out faint chords of an unfamiliar tune. It sounded sort of Vaudeville-ish, but I might have been partially deaf thanks to Nickelback. Anyway, being that I was on my way to a writer’s conference, I had writing at the front of my brain, so it occurred to me that the guy might be a songwriter. After all, I had a piece of paper anchored under my leg and a pen in my empty cup holder in case I needed to quickly jot down a great idea. So, I couldn’t fault him for writing a song as he was stuck in traffic.

But, just to be safe—knowing how involved writing can be when the mood is right—I sped ahead until I couldn’t see him in my rearview anymore. Because even though I understand how important it is to get that epiphany down on paper the moment it hits, I didn’t want to be in that guy’s path when he hit the gas to keep up with traffic.

I might have ended up Vaudeville toast, with a side of squished Mustang on the side.


Kellie Buckner said...

that's so awesome! along with my voice recorder I'm bringing my clarinet next time I drive anywhere!

Keith Fisher said...

a side of squished mustang? No, no, please, I would be in mourning for years. I'm hoping I can inherit that car someday so take care of it.

Nichole Giles said...


Go for it. But may I suggest you learn how to play with no hands so you can keep them both on the wheel? It would sure make me feel a lot better about driving on the freeway.


Nichole Giles said...


Hm. I think you might have to wait in line for my car. My son is turning fifteen this year and has also voiced his hopes of "inheriting" it someday.

The problem is I have every intention of keeping it myself. But hey, when you become a famous author, maybe you'll end up buying your own.


Jennifer said...

That's what I call multi-tasking. :) It's not really worse than eating, putting on make-up, or texting while driving, though, right? Not that I condone any of the above. I do love music, though, and it sounds like a great way to pass the time during long commutes. :D

By the way, I tagged you on my blog. :)