One of my favorite things to do in traffic is defuse the tension by being that weirdo jamming out in her car, and I blame my sister for that.
My family has always been vehicularly musical; our road trips to visit relatives always involved rotating through tried and true soundtracks. I knew the words to Camelot, Godspell, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, etc. before I started first grade. We still bust out Hairspray and The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber. So I sang in the car a lot growing up.
But car dancing didn’t really start until I taught Bird the moves to a dance associated with a particular retreat at my high school. Although The Dance is and always will be connected to that retreat, the more I chauffeured my sister around, the more it became our thing. If either of us was having a bad day, we’d put on The Song. If we were bored driving home, we’d put on The Song.
Now, initially we only tended to do this while moving, so we felt like no one could see us (side note: I always toned down the moves enough to maintain full control of the vehicle at all times). But one day, when the other drivers at a lengthy stoplight looked particularly irritable, Bird turned to me and said with that little-sister grin, “These people need Jesus.” Before I realized what she meant, she had cranked up The Song to full volume and rolled down her window. We were attracting glances from our neighboring cars, but the moves hadn’t started yet. They thought we were just another couple of teenagers with really loud music.
I sighed and rolled down my window too.
When the lyrics began, we bounced in rhythm to the song and performed the moves in perfect synchronization. The drivers across the intersection started to stare. By the time the chorus came around, pretty much everyone was watching us. The light turned green, and we drove on, still dancing and singing, but I definitely noticed some smiles. Maybe they just thought we were ridiculous. We probably looked ridiculous.
But who doesn’t love telling stories about ridiculous stuff?
Our car dance performances are not necessarily restricted to The Song or religious music. We make up moves to Ariana Grande and Hunter Hayes. The point is that it’s fun to get weird looks from total strangers and to make their day a bit more interesting. (We also love to do this when we’re stopped by construction workers.)
And yet, for all our unbridled enthusiasm for car dancing, there has been only one spectator who dared to, as they say, get on our level.
Remember how Bird and I volunteered at VBS? Well, one year we were given our own class to teach, a group of rambunctious 2nd and 3rd graders. Like every other class group, our students had to learn a song. At the concert at the end of the week, each class would perform their song, with the corresponding dance moves, for an audience of parents.
And as the teachers prompting them at the foot of the stage, Bird and I had to learn the moves too.
We were in the car on the way to St. C’s, practicing the moves and lyrics, music at full blast, when we stopped at a red light. Since the choreography was designed for little kids, the chorus was mostly just waving your arms back and forth. So that’s what we were doing – when we noticed the guy behind us staring. And so was the lady next to us.
We bounced all the harder in our seats (restrained by our seatbelts, of course – safety first!) and exaggerated the ridiculous dance moves even more for our audience. We figured we might as well.
And then, just as the light was about to turn, I glanced in the rearview mirror to see the guy behind us grinning and waving his arms back and forth in time with ours.
Well danced, sir. Well danced.
The last time i was stationed in SoCal I had to travel around the greater LA area now and then in the long lines of traffic. I was enamored at the time with Beethoven’s Brandenburg Concertos, particularly the 5th. When I was stalled in traffic I would punch it in, turn it up and then conduct. I was in my 40s then and the perception that teen or early 20s young women car dancing were just quirky and cute did not extend to me. At best i was thought eccentric trending to creepy or simply deranged. I found it great fun however and a good way to pass time which would otherwise be spent muttering low imprecations and imagining other drivers coming to very bad ends. Given i was conducting a cassette tape orchestra i could at least count on the entrances being precise and the intonation good.