I-75 Observations (last of my vacation reflections)

I-75:
Awash with trucks, porn, DQs
and fast lane nimrods.
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Ahhh… a week in the sun and sand has ended.  However, we still had the blasted commute back home.  Hours, and I mean hours, before we departed at the beginning, my beloved purchased a 2008 Chevy Tahoe, so we were able to travel in style and comfort and confidence… my Honda lacks comfort on long drives, his very old Tahoe lacks confidence; net this was a welcome upgrade. But although the commute was relatively easy, it was full of interesting observations…

1. Tennessee drivers are governed by a law, much like the law of gravity, that I call the law of the blind and stupid.   Like the law of gravity, there is no getting around it. This law compels them to drive in the fast lane no matter what their speed. This wouldn’t really be bothersome if their speed was, let’s say, more than 70 mph. But it isn’t. They drive, and I do intend to imply this is true for all drivers in the state, below the speed limit in the high-speed lane. I spent most of the trip inhaling sharply between my teeth as Frank would run up on one of them, trying to use the massive breadth of the new Tahoe to scare them into one of the other lanes… it didn’t work.  Like most laws in physics, there are other accompanying laws. In this case, the law of assholes often is found at work when the law of the blind and stupid is in play. Tennessee drivers make assholes out of the best of us.

2. The good, God-fearing folk of southern Georgia have a porn problem.  I have been driving the top half of the state for over 25 years and outside of Hot-lanta, you don’t get a lot of billboards coaxing drivers to stop off at road side girlie shows. This time, I ventured south of Macon for the first time in many years, and was astonished at the number of billboards and resulting establishments for all things “adult”.  My favorite? “Strippers. Need we say more?”  I thought that was a brilliant, easy to follow marketing campaign in a market prone to clutter with loads of unnecessary information (books! movies! shows! naked! truckers welcome! now with attached Subway!). Now I know that the people in peanut and cotton country down there will say that it is all those northern born truckers bringing their sin to town… but I don’t buy it. Between Cincinnati and Macon (560 miles) there are roughly two, maybe 3, adult establishments right on the interstate (that commute is really boring, okay? you notice these things). Between Macon and the Albany exit — a grand total of 60 miles, I saw no fewer than 4. Wow.

3. Our new Tahoe has a built-in DVD player. Typically on long drives each kid has a device of some sort which requires recharging and never seems to have, amongst the 25 preloaded movies, what they want to watch. But this time they watched the same movies, displayed over head, and loved it. Nothing ran out of batteries; no one got bored; everyone shared. It was like our family entered some parallel universe where the kids are happy and grateful all the time.  I have a saying that on the 8th day, god created macaroni and cheese. Well, on the 9th day, he created in-car DVD systems.

4. I spent the bulk of vacation wearing either a swimsuit or pajamas. Really couldn’t be bothered with any clothing that would fall “between” these two ends of the spectrum. So when it was time to drive home (and since by this time I was also in the middle of a fairly uncomfortable upper respiratory infection), I really, really wanted to just keep those PJ’s on for the drive. No one would know me. What were the chances I would run into someone I recognized?  But then I realized something. What if all those videos of people at Wal-Mart in their PJ’s weren’t just lazy hicks, but were simply people like me coming off vacation, still clinging to the last vestiges of that holiday feeling? I didn’t want my PJ-and-croc wearing self showing up on some video for Bob’s Truck Stop/DQ/Dirt Museum. So I was ruefully sensible and wore normal clothes.

5. You know you have been on vacation too long when you crave salads. By the time we returned to Cincinnati, the thought of food that came from any place other than nature made me sick to my stomach. I think part of the reason was (warning… keep reading at your own risk) I began suffering from what I call vacation-bola. This is where instead of bleeding-out, you poop-out… all the shit you have eaten for the last week (you know the menu, no need to repeat it here) decides it must exit your system as soon as possible, in pretty much the same form as it entered – “shit”. It is actually a blessing to get hit with vacation-bola — a great way to reset your system after the various over indulgences without requiring medical/pharmaceutical intervention. However, on this trip, it required no fewer than 3 stops on our already-over-long commute home.  I must rethink my vacation menus…

That’s it. I return to the real world on Monday, slightly less white than I was 2 weeks ago, and much better rested. Happy end of summer to everyone!

The Anatomy of a Breakdown (Through the Eyes of Vodka)

Haikus written drunk
Lack insightfulness, wit, depth,
But who the hell cares.*

………………………………………………………………….

Ahhh, vacation. A few days of sun and pollen-drenched blossoms. Restful sleep and a modest sunburn. All the ingredients required for a few days R&R.

And then you have the return drive. Nine plus hours up and down the mountains that criss cross I-75 through Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky on the way to my beloved Ohio.

We were 34 miles away from home – 34 MILES!! – when AB, the 5-year-old, announced he could no longer hold it and we needed to stop. Since we couldn’t convince him to pee in a bottle (yes, I’m a horrible mother, this was a viable option for me… we were making fantastic time and I wanted to get home), we were forced to take the next exit, where we pulled into the Pilot Truck Stop. I like gas stations that service truckers. The bathrooms tend to be better than most, they have the widest variety of junk food, and the people watching exceeds all expectations.

So Frank and AB departed to the bathroom, while my girl and I sat in the car, enjoying the momentary silence and the air conditioning. Ohm. Then the boys returned, the car was put into reverse, and we began our departure.

Five feet later, the departure stopped. The car died. Died. As in dead. As in no-go-no-more. 34 MILES FROM HOME!  Below is my dissection of the event through the steps of emotional change I experienced. Kubler-Ross has her 5 stages of grief. I present to you my 7 stages of a breakdown…

1. Command and control. The car was dead in the water. Actually, it was dead in the middle of a high traffic area in the parking lot. The instant it was clear to me that there was no instant recovery, I jumped out, having acquired super human strength, and told Frank I would push while he steered. (Note: We were driving a Chevy Tahoe, not a Mini Cooper.) I waved off the people patiently waiting, blinker on, for our parking spot, and assumed my line-backer position behind the car. Heave ho, with a little help from Frank who assisted from the driver’s side, we pushed the car back into the parking spot. Alexander Haig’s famous line “I am in charge here” echoed in my head briefly.

2. The Adventure. This stage is marked by a sense of fun and a dash of gratitude. “At least it didn’t break down in the high-speed lane during rush hour!” I told the kids. This is something new – “we’ve never been in a situation like this” so let’s have some fun while we are at it. Adventure attempts to cover over the anxiety of other participants. I’ve employed this tactic on midnight ER visits with the kids with some success, so I readily reapplied it here. It is mildly successful.

3. Wary Problem Solving. This is where you realize things are no longer going your way. Of the few things your incredibly-smart-car-savvy-can-fix-anything-husband thinks have gone wrong, none of the easy ones are showing up. I start to participate in the problem solving, pushing the gas pedal just so, turning the ignition as instructed. Other car guys are stopping by to offer help and ideas, none of which fall in “the part is available in the truck stop and is easy to replace” category. I have started to count how many apples we have left and begin turning off cell phones to save battery life. The preparation has begun.

4. Taking Action. There we are, both Frank and I, on the phone trying to figure out how we are getting 4 people, a car load of crap and the car itself 34 MILES to our home. I’m calling American Express to find out if our gold car has any road side assistance features. He’s calling AAA re-upping our long expired membership so we can cheaply obtain a tow. The kids, who have begun to whine in earnest, have started to get nervous and fidgety… I decide to have a whining contest to give them a creative way to express themselves that doesn’t make me want to put them up for adoption. (This part was fun, actually. I gave each a scenario and they had to produce their best whine: “Moooooommmm, but I don’t want to brush my teeeeeeth”.  “Mooooommmmm, I don’t like to eat green beeeeeeannns.” They had a lot of fun.) Overall, this was progress, as we were making decisions, moving forward, no longer just waiting for a solution to stick.

5. The In Between. This was our darkest moment. Just like depression precedes acceptance in Kubler-Ross, we were in a dark place. The tow truck was going to be a while. The cab even longer (no room in the tow truck for us all).  I took the kids into the Subway restaurant in the Pilot Truck Stop to get them food that contained some semblance of nutrition, and they were like wet cats. At one point, I leaned over, demanded eye contact, and told them they had better stick with me or, well, I didn’t provide an alternative but rest assured they understood unpleasantness would ensue. I was incapable of communicating with the poor Subway clerk – I couldn’t make eye contact; I responded in single syllables; I took deep breaths before speaking; I was unable to make anything make sense. Words failed me and I found myself resorting to single syllables and doing nothing more than tell my children to sit down and be quiet (actually, I ejaculated the phrase “sit down now” so vehemently that they listened). It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t well. This was a bad place…

6. The Release. The cab arrived just as the tow truck was ready to depart. The driver was a delightful woman with children the same ages as mine. She took over – put the car seat in, put me at ease, got us on our way. We talked easily about kids and the news of the day. AB was a joyful, delightful boy intent on relaying his entire medical history during the commute. Salvation was upon us. The end was near. 34 MILES was traversed at last.

7. The Drinking. The bags are unpacked, mostly. The kids are in bed. I’m here, thoroughly enjoying my second Cosmo, replaying the day’s events for you, my delightful reader. I’m a little drunk, and more than a little resentful that I have a 8:30am conference call tomorrow (boo! hiss! what was I thinking!). We are all well; we even managed to pick the dog up in time (only 5 minutes after close) so that the whole family is now back together again.

That brings to a close our day returning from vacation. I provide these stages as a guideline should any of your find yourselves in such a situation. May this provide needed guidance and reassurance that you will, you WILL, arrive on the other side of such tragedies.

If not, here is my recipe for a good Cosmo: 2 parts (part=shot glass) vodka (I’m not picky, any brand will do, you are mixing it for crying out loud so pick the medium cheap brand); 1 part Triple Sec; 1 part cranberry juice; 1 part Rose’s lime juice. Mix all together; introduce an ice cube to cool it briefly; then poor into a drinking container without the ice. Snobs will tell you a martini glass is required. I use a wine glass because I am not a snob, but rather a cheap drunk. Enjoy.

 

*This is the best haiku I’ve ever written. This took 20 seconds to write. Viva la Cosmo!

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