According to Merriam-Webster, detour is defined as “a deviation from a direct course or the usual procedure.” Most people — myself included, until recently — consider detours a major inconvenience. A detour is often deemed a hindrance, viewed purely as an obstacle we must overcome on our way to work, school, or wherever we may be traveling.
About a month ago, construction started on a road I take to work in the morning, leaving it open only to local traffic. This construction has forced me to take a detour every morning, adding anywhere between five and ten minutes to my daily commute. To arrive at work on time, I should probably be leaving my house a little bit earlier, which would mean waking up five to ten minutes earlier on most days. As one might predict, I’ve been 5-10 minutes late to work almost every day since the construction began. (Whoops.)
Though seemingly unfortunate, I now consider this detour my favorite part of the day.
These moments I’m referring to occur between 7:55 and 8:05 each morning, and they rarely last for more than a minute, depending on how fast traffic is moving. If I time it right, I have the pleasure of passing a specific house at what is probably its most genuine moment of the day — and in many ways, mine as well.
As I approach the end of my morning commute, I get to witness a mother and her two daughters waiting for the school bus. On most mornings, they play games. They laugh. They smile. The older daughter assures her mother that she did all of her homework as the younger one gets her hair fixed for the school day. I never get to watch the entire scene play out, and I certainly can’t claim to know anything more than the fact that I see them and that they are real.
I don’t know their situation. I don’t know if there’s a father and/or husband in the picture. I don’t know if I’m the only one who sees them; I assume I share this sight with at least dozens of other drivers each morning, though I’m unsure they appreciate these experiences the same way I do.
Some mornings, I pass that house before 7:55am. I get to work on time on these days, but I miss out on everything I’ve described above. I don’t enjoy these days as much.
And sure, it sounds like nothing. When reading those first two paragraphs, people may have suspected I was writing about something extraordinary, something mind-blowing. And while I believe I am writing about something extraordinary, I do understand the criticism of my sentimentality. People have every right to ask, “Ryan, what’s so special about two kids waiting for a school bus?”
But I have every right to counter that it’s something we need to see to understand.
So, while I used to groan when I heard the word detour or saw a ROAD CLOSED sign, I now know it’s not always such a bad thing. There’s a reason it’s often referred to as the “scenic route.”
This article was originally posted on Putting It Into Perspective, Ryan’s blog.