Back in the early 90s I came across a really amusing article in an obscure little magazine. The article was by this guy who had always wondered what the lyrics were in Manfred Mann’s version of the Bruce Springsteen song Blinded By The Light. You know, the part where they sing “Blinded by the light/wrapped up like a…” or “revved up like a…” What the heck were they singing, anyway?
It was the author’s method of finding out what the lyrics were, in those pre-Google days, that made the article so amusing. He went to the Rainbow Cattle Co. bar in Guerneville one evening and, yelling to be heard over the blare of dance music, asked several patrons what they thought the lyrics were. The resulting mini-interviews were hilarious, and the best part is that he never did answer his own question.
I thought of that article today as I turned on the car radio and started singing along to Elton John’s Rocket Man. I was doing okay through the verses and the chorus, but then something bad happened: “And I think it’s going to be a long long time/Till touchdown brings me round again to find/I’m not the man they think I am at home/Oh no, no, no./I’m a rocket man,/Rocket man, burning down the….” Oh no. What is that guy singing?
The worst part about my moment of mumbling is that a few months ago I had run into the same situation, and solved it by going home and immediately googling the lyrics. You would think I’d remember them now after printing them out and saving them, but no. That’s not how memory works in middle age. So for all those of you who are still with me here, the missing line is “Burning down his fuse out here alone.” Got that? Write it down somewhere so you won’t forget, not that that will help you when you need it.
My afternoon in the car was replete with mysteries, fortunately none of them the expensive kind involving mechanics, but mysteries nonetheless. The main one that I’ll pose here concerns people who are merging onto a roadway.
There are people who, if there is a car approaching in the lane they want to enter, will wait for that car to pass before venturing out into traffic. There are other people who, upon seeing an oncoming car, will wait till the very last minute then dash out into the lane just ahead of the car, forcing the driver (let’s say it’s me) to brake suddenly to accommodate them.
All that is to be expected, even here on the outskirts of the Bay Area. People used to city driving bring their harried pace with them even out on country roads, and with the busy lives we all lead it is a reasonable assumption that a driver who makes such a hurried move is in fact in a hurry. What baffles me is what follows.
According to my painstaking research, two things are likely to ensue. The most likely scenario is that within a mile, that car will have to make a left turn. It will slow way down, then force everyone behind it to come to a complete stop while it blocks the single lane road waiting to turn. This occurs so often that even my skeptical teenage daughter has given up arguing with me about it.
The second most likely scenario is that this driver now wants to move slower than everyone behind him (let’s say it’s a him). Slower on the curves, slower on the straightaway. In fact, my research reveals that the only place this driver will speed up is when the double yellow turns to a dotted yellow to allow for passing. Suddenly, this driver will experience a surge in life force the likes of which he has not felt in decades. His foot will find the floor, his jalopy will lurch forward, and we won’t catch up with him again until the center line is a double yellow again.
As a student of life’s mysteries I know that drivers and singers, like other mortals, view their actions in ways which make them seem perfectly reasonable. And as a dedicated relativist for much of my adulthood, normally I would summon the empathy to at least understand their (imagined) point of view, no matter how much I disagreed with it.
A funny thing has been happening to me lately, though. I find that I have less patience for versions of reality that are clearly at odds with physics, not to mention common sense. And in a surprising twist to the doctrine of self-empowerment I have stood by for so many years, I find the apex of its expression in my newfound ability to tell people that they are wrong. Just plain jackassedly wrong, if not completely off their rockers.
It feels like a spiritual awakening, the sense of rightness and satisfaction I get in speaking my mind. Of course I am still capable of tact and diplomacy, probably more so than most. But after all these years I have come to value telling the truth over being nice, and as a result I would say that I am healthier and happier than I have ever been. This too is a mystery, a blessed one that I am grateful for every single day.