Tango waits patiently for the Social Distancing Car Cruise to begin. Photo by Stan Schwartz

I pulled into Bowling Green at around 3:30 p.m. Saturday having just done a photo shoot out at the Bowling Green Reservoir. I wanted to document some of the vandalism that was done out there. Mostly the damage was spray painting. You would think after the invention of the written word more than 5,000 years ago vandals would be able to come up with something a little more enlightened than vulgar curse words and drawings of male genitalia. At least the drawing was so crude that a parent could explain it as a rocket ship to a youngster.

Bowling Green Police Chief Don Nacke thought it the work of bored kids out of school with nothing to do. City Administrator Linda Luebrecht said people should have more respect for other people’s property. Either way, the damage is done. And even though the day was dreary and overcast with a chill wind keeping the temperatures below 40 degrees, I was headed to something a lot more fun. Of course most things are a lot more fun than documenting the needless destruction of public property.

Downtown, the scene was set for a car cruise. This is something that has happened in most small towns since the automobile was let loose on the teenagers of this country. Or should I say, the teens of this country were let loose with cars. For many, like me, getting a drivers license was the first taste of independence we felt. Out from under our parent’s watchful eyes, released from the back seat to take charge of the family car, and go out on the open road—or cruise slowly down main street so everyone could see us.

I set up at the intersection of S. Court and W. Main streets about 20 minutes before the set time for the cruise. Tango, my faithful four-legged traveling companion, was sitting in the back seat enjoying the chill air. He is not a fan of hot weather, what with having an extremely thick fur coat. I asked if he was excited. He gave me that “if you had a treat in your hand, maybe I would be” look.

At 10 till 5, the streets were still mostly empty, but a young man spraying weed killer around the courthouse asked if I was there for “the lap.” I was holding my official work camera, so I nodded my head and said, “Yup.”

At about five till, an eager family in a minivan turned onto the square, with the kids waving out the window and the dad blaring the horn. The excitement of the cruise was ramping up. More vehicles started coming down W. Main Street. Some sounding their horns, others waved as they made the turn onto S. Court Street. And it wasn’t long before the vehicles coming up S. Court completed the lap, heading back to the 54-61 intersection.

It was that small taste of freedom, being out of the house and seeing friends again that made the event so inviting. Even if everyone could not get closer than 6 feet, they could still wave from behind safety glass, honk the horn and smile.

I remember my first car, a ’64 Ford Galaxy 500, my Dad had bought used and handed down to one of my older sisters after years of use. She then proceeded to nearly drive it into the ground. But it was still mine, if only for a short while.

About 20 minutes into the cruise, I decided it was time to stop taking photos and join in the fun. I jumped in to my new pickup truck and told Tango to hang on. We went around the square and made the turn onto W. Main Street to head out to Bus. 61. As soon as I joined in, I could not suppress my smile. I waved, honked my horn and kept driving, making the turnaround at 54 to head back through town and then out to the roundabout.

The only two places where the cruise backed up were the intersection in town and the one where S. Court Street crosses Bus. 61. But you know, I didn’t mind being in that back up. My goal was to be there, not trying to get somewhere else. Like from the old saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

We were all on a journey together. We shared that moment, that tiny bit of freedom. After a couple of laps, it was time to head home and feed Tango.

When all the bans are lifted and people can get back to their normal lives, they’ll remember this moment, this bit of journey they shared with others and they’ll honk their horns.

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