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The greatest gift


Jim Chastain February 1st, 2007

The holidays are now over, for better or worse. The presents all have been unwrapped, for those of you who partake in such traditions. The incomprehensible madness of visiting extended family has been...

The holidays are now over, for better or worse. The presents all have been unwrapped, for those of you who partake in such traditions. The incomprehensible madness of visiting extended family has been accomplished or avoided once again. The leftovers have been tossed in the garbage. Your team has won or lost. The kids are back in school. The new year's resolutions have been made or not, and a great many have already been rejected as having been made under duress or perhaps even a touch of temporary insanity.
 
In times like this, when the shock of the real world and all its work, work, work tends to punch us hard in the face, perhaps we should pause for a moment and reflect on what just transpired " to be thankful for what we have received and for somehow making it through another December.
 
For me, December was a great month. That's not bragging, mind you. Trust me, I've seen my fair share of miserable holiday seasons, and I know a lot of people who are going through tough times as we speak. But I wasn't one of them. No, this holiday season was pretty memorable, filled with family, friends, creative fun and the fulfillment of some long-ago dreamed dreams.
 
We should never judge the holidays by the gifts we received, but I nabbed some pretty cool stuff. A bookstore gift card. A Tom Waits CD. Some much-needed clothes. A boccie ball set. A framed picture. A cool scarf. A game. Even some cash.

No one deserves such gifts. Or, perhaps everyone does, but things just don't pan out for most. Either way, I feel lucky " fortunate " to be where I am, to have received any gifts at all.
 
Not to disrespect those who gave me such great gifts this year, but my greatest gift may have come from the state of Oklahoma. In fact, I didn't even know I had received it until two days after Christmas, when I was heading back to work.
 
I live in Norman but work in Oklahoma City. As such, I have been doing the "commuter thing" since 1989. You know the routine. That spectacularly boring 20-mile drive, which takes much longer than it should. Thirty to 40 minutes, unless there's a wreck or you hit it during the worst part of rush hour. Then, you can tack on another 15 minutes.
 
For 17 years, I've driven that awful drive, twice a day, 40 or so times a month, close to 500 times a year. And during every single one of those drives, I've had to endure mile after mile of road construction.
 
It's unbelievable really " how it can take decades to add one extra lane to Interstate 35 over a 20-mile stretch. Rome wasn't built in a day, of course, but something tells me that we weren't trying our hardest here, that we weren't giving it that extra oomph.
 
Anyway, it might not be so bad if the route from OKC to Norman were picturesque. But it's not. In fact, this may be the ugliest drive in the state. The trip is essentially a continuous string of power lines and gaudy billboards, of tacky strip malls and fast-food franchises.
 
But just after Christmas 2006, everything suddenly changed. Well, the ugly still was there, of course, but the never-ending road construction suddenly " well " ended. Glory be, hallelujah, break out the champagne! A 20-mile drive suddenly took 20 minutes, if that. We now have 10 extra minutes at work and at home! Productivity will surely spike as a result.

I guess it's time to start thinking about adding that fourth lane. - Jim Chastain
 
Chastain, a Norman resident, is an attorney in Oklahoma City.
 
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