Nothing gets me excited quite like a road trip. There’s something about pressing down on the gas pedal with a destination in mind that gets my blood pumping.
During the past four years, my short career as a journalist has taken me across the country. For every journey that led me to the steps of the White House or the NCAA basketball tournament, there was one that led me to a tiny minor league baseball stadium in a New Jersey beach town or across the plains of Indiana. Each big trip always starts by loading up my belongings into my black Honda Accord—which I put more than 23,000 miles on since I brought it to Duke the day I officially became sports editor the summer after my sophomore year.
Although working with The Chronicle has afforded me a number of worthy travel companions over the years, on a number of these trips—mainly the ones I took during my summers for other publications—I was flying solo. And as much as I love road tripping, I hate anything that involves me being alone.
I don’t deal well with silence, and I don’t deal well with isolation. For better or for worse, I crave human interaction. It’s the reason why I would much rather do my schoolwork in a crowded common room than a quiet library, even if doing so means inevitable side conversations will make accomplishing my tasks take longer than it should.
And while shuffling through the music on my iPhone takes care of the silence, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s just me and the road and my uncertain future ahead. So instead of listening to music, I make phone calls.
I use my hours alone on the open road to pore through my memory and call friends who haven’t heard from me in a while. Some of them I haven’t spoken to in months, others years; ironically, you don’t understand what it means to say “it’s been years” to another person until it actually has been. As whatever new landscape drifts by outside the driver’s side window, I sift through my contacts from A to Z and remind myself of how we’ve lost touch. I wait with bated breath as each ring passes by with seconds feeling like hours.
When the ringing finally subsides, I hear the warmth of a familiar voice as memories begin to rush back into my head. Most of the time, whoever is on the other end of that phone call is surprised to hear from me. I can’t really blame them—the way we communicate today is based on a constant stream of instant gratification. It’s quantity instead of quality, and because we are so accessible to one another via cell phones and the Internet people tend to believe that if you don’t hear from someone in a while, it means they don’t want to hear from you, either.
I use these phone calls as somewhat of a test, because I’ve found that real friendships stand the test of time. Regardless of how long it has been since you’ve last spoken, diving back into conversation should be effortless.
Sometimes my phone call lasts for five minutes—other times an hour. Either way, when one is finished I move to the next name on my list until I reach my destination.
Until now, the only people I’ve had to call on these road trips have been friends from home, with the occasional Duke graduate sprinkled in. But once the Class of 2015 crosses that stage at commencement, my list will grow exponentially. All of a sudden, classmates from my freshman dorm, my fraternity brothers and friends with whom I worked at The Chronicle—people who have seen both the best and worst of me during my four year residency in the Gothic Wonderland—will become the people to whom I sigh and say “it’s been years.”
Just thinking about it is scary—time running out and tearing down the support system you spent so long building. Conversely, it’s a new challenge. More friendships for time to test, and more importantly, more calls to make.
So next time you hear your phone ring and see that it’s me, don’t act so surprised.
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