My current job requires a lot of driving. I’m not transporting hazardous materials, or maneuvering an 18-wheeler through hairpin turns – just regular, old-fashioned highway and city driving. Even though most of this work driving is in Austin, my city, my home, it’s still counted as travel hours, my working hours outside the office, crisscrossing the city, the suburbs, the immediate countryside and neighboring towns.
Normally, this time is a rather ideal time for small devotional practice. I can put some kirtan on in the car, letting the sweet sound fill the background as I drive. As I scan above the dashboard, I can glance at the small pictures I have in my car. Maharajji is dangling from my car keys, suspended on a gold chain that sways as I slow down and speed up. My right hand rests on the gearshaft, inches away from an enshrined pendant of Radha and Krishn, arms wrapped tight around each other, rhinestones shining in the relative darkness of their compartment. I sometimes have a spare Radhe Shyami shawl draped around the headrest of my seat, a soft reminder to take God’s name at all times.
But my job doesn’t let me drive my own car. Too much liability, too much expense on their part. So I take rentals, rentals that are fully insured and paid for before I even step in. These cars, of course, do not have devotional pictures. They don’t have kirtan CD’s preloaded in the player. They don’t have God on the keychains, in the compartments of the dashboard, wrapped around the seats. They feel a little like hotel rooms: sterile, cold and hard.
Now, I can still plug in my phone and play kirtan, or put small votive pictures of Maharajji and Radha Krishna around the car. But I’m haunted by a nagging sense of professional responsibility: this is work time, you’re getting paid to drive, to travel, so focus on that. You don’t want to get into an accident and have to report to your boss that you were distracted by something you put in the car. On a less hysterical note, it’s a lot of work, to transfer pictures and audio cables into the car on top of my suits, boxes of publications, my office computer and travel case.
Part of me wants to say that these are all small concerns, that if I really wanted to, I’d practice devotion wherever I was, no matter what the cost, no matter how hard it would be. Another side of me says that there is a time for everything – a time for work, a time for play, and a time for devotion. You don’t always get to do what you want when you want to. That’s antithetical to the way the world works. You have to balance your down time with your work time with the rest of your time, and so much of it just ends up as time wasted.
The best I can hope for, I think, are those small moments on a flat road in Texas, where you look to your left, to your right, in front and behind of your car and all you see are fields, clouds, the pavement and the sun. The world above and the world below look to be in perfect harmony, with your vehicle traversing the world between, and you have a moment to acknowledge God’s creation in its sublime glory, to appreciate God in understatement, to practice devotion to the immense nature of Bhagwan in his world, all on a weekday drive in the sun.