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On Kinetic Memory

I am in Southern Maine for my high school reunion and while I’ve been back here since, I realize now I didn’t really drive myself around much when I was. This time, I have a rental car and I find myself driving through the enchanting town of Cape Elizabeth (near Portland) being very aware of my how my body feels.

There are certain turns in the road where my kinetic memory kicks in, developed learning to drive here and feeling like I owned these roads. In many ways, we did own these roads, in the way that teenagers claim their new found freedom and take ownership of it. We whipped up and down these narrow, tree-lined streets back and forth to school, to visit each others’ homes and just around from here to there (again, as teenagers do).

As I drive into these curves – fast – I notice something take over my body and unconsciously, I know how much gas to give it and what kind of subtle shift of the steering wheel to perfectly sail through the turn.

Yesterday, I turned into Cumberland Farms from Route 77, which has an incline up a hill, and experienced watching myself punch the gas and quickly turn to the right, effortlessly pulling into a parking spot. That I was watching myself means my autopilot had so fully taken over, I had the cognitive space to pull outside of myself and catch a glimpse of my 18 year old self. If just for a moment – it was a nice visit.

As an aside, as an older, wiser adult, I can say with all honesty and all humility, we really did drive too fast. No wonder most of us got speeding tickets.

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