Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: Winter brings out the worst – and best – in me

I always receive weird visions when the weather goes bad. Whenever I’m on the road I imagine some jerk in an overbearing SUV or an overcompensating sports car speeding up behind me and then tailing my car two inches behind me, honking repeatedly on the icy roads, demanding that I drive faster.

This vision of someone irrationally projecting on me propels me to become defensive whenever I’m in the car, and I tend to take the proactive approach. I lose my faith in humanity. I get irritated in the car, yelling at anyone who is driving erratically, or turning without using their signal or jumping in front of me.

Deep down I wish for everyone to be a perfect driver – like me. But I know that’s not possible to make a reality, because the roads, like the people around you, are something you can’t control. And I lash out.

So if you happened to see a bearded redhead decked out in earth tones, driving a silver 2002 Honda Civic and jumping up and down, screaming maniacally at you like some homeless self-proclaimed street corner prophet, that person was me, and maybe now you’ll understand my motivation into why I was doing that.

It hit me the other day, as I was groaning at a slowly moving elderly driver in the confines of my car seat – I was doing exactly what I imagined others doing to me. I had turned into the very person in my vision I despised. I couldn’t believe this had happened.

I told myself I had to change my ways. Once I stopped the car I got out and tried to reassess my life. Doing this sort of deep thinking activity is normally best done outdoors, so that’s where I went.

I didn’t figure out any answers that day. It was too cold and my brain normally shuts down when it’s below freezing. Besides, I got distracted by something in the sky. As snowflakes fell on me, I looked up and saw a cloud formation that looked like a potential funnel cloud, and I freaked out a little. But being a North Dakota resident, I didn’t feel a tinge of shock or surprise at all. I actually figured we’ve seen just about everything here, and a simultaneous blizzard and twister would merely be another day in the prairie, as far as I was concerned.

And then I stopped thinking about the weather, because it never gets me anywhere. I did what I’ve done since I was a kid whenever the forces around me are not up to my standards – I lied on the ground and kicked and screamed until I got my way.

No. I turned to my imagination. After getting the visions of an actual tornado hitting the ground and the elderly person getting out of their car and scolding me for driving too close out of my head, I closed my eyes and pretended I was in Hawaii, sipping on tropical drinks, reading a book, and ignoring time completely.

And just as I was doing this, I thought to myself that I now can, in fact, do that. So I went inside and jumped onto Google Maps, and let the virtual tour of Hawaii’s white sandy beaches do the imaginary work for me.

Of course it wasn’t the same, but it was a tad satisfying nonetheless. And it helped to calm some of the urges I had to escape the cold weather.

I’m only assuming here, but it appears we’re long beyond the days of free thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci, who helped revolutionize the modern world in myriads of ways, but new groundbreaking inventions continue to be created today. And they sprout from one simple spark – the imagination.

That’s when I thought to myself that new concepts like Google Maps have been created with that purpose in mind – to turn our imaginations into a more tangible reality. If you want to “escape,” you can. If you want to talk with a friend who’s halfway around the world, you’re able to chat with them on Skype or Facebook. This world is getting smaller because of technology, and these new modern devices are trying to satisfy those urges our imaginations create.

So if you have the time, I offer you this one tip – close your eyes, and imagine what it is that you would like to see in this world. Maybe it’s already out there. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe the thing that you see in your mind could be the very idea that will help change the world for the better, and maybe it will help cool people down a bit before they get the urge to yell at others on the road. Maybe it could be an invention that makes you a million bucks.

But even if that imagination of yours doesn’t make you a million, it really doesn’t matter.

It, in itself, is worth its weight in gold.