Road Tripping: Wonderment & Rage

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My recent mission:  drive 500 miles from my current residence to see my family in Alabama for Thanksgiving without losing my mind or wrecking my car.

The challenge:  The world is full of idiots and freaks.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s proof:

Soon after I merged onto I-20 in South Carolina, traffic nearly came to a standstill.  Crawling at 30 miles an hour, I found myself weaving in and out of Christmas trees scattered on the highway.  My first thought when I saw the trees was, “Oh great, along with being squished between two semi trucks, being blown off a bridge (I am terrified of tall bridges), hydroplaning during a blinding rain, and having another golf club fly out of the back of a pickup and take out my front tire (yes, that happened on I-65 in 2002), now I have to worry about flying Christmas trees!”  Then, I witnessed possibly the dumbest behavior I ever seen.  Cars were actually pulled over and waiting for daring passengers to dart into the highway to steal a tree.  Really?  My prediction for a Christmas blessing somewhere in South Carolina:  “Happy Birthday, Jesus!  Thank you, Lord, for all you have given us.  We pray for world peace and for Tiny Tim to recover from the injuries he sustained while stealing our Christmas tree on I-20.  We thought surely he could move faster than he did.  That black SUV seemed to come out of nowhere!  Amen and pass the gravy.”

Later in my journey, I decided to get off the interstate and take the back roads of Georgia and Alabama down to I-10.  This road less traveled took me through Dothan, Alabama.  I lived in Alabama for 20 plus years, but never ventured through Dothan.  Now I know why.  Apparently, the child beauty pageant craze is alive and well in Dothan.  Nearly every other billboard along 431 advertises a toddler’s pursuit of a tiara.  As I drove along 431 and read the good luck messages printed under the gigantic 6-year-old faces, I assumed the parents of these little girls thought it was a good idea and a great use of money to plaster their child’s face (fake lashes, red lipstick, flipper, and all) on a billboard.  If anyone knows how much it costs to wish little Kaitlin or Sophie or Honey Boo Boo good luck during the next Little Miss Peanut Pageant on a 20’x60’ billboard, please let me know.  I would also like to know if in the case of defeat, when does the billboard come down?  Will it stand as a public and constant reminder to the Honey Boo Boo’s of Dothan that they just don’t have what it takes to wear the rhinestone crown?  Needless to say, I don’t plan on driving through Dothan ever again, so I will have to live without understanding this phenomenon.

Back on the interstate, I stopped at a Starbuck’s for a coffee.  As a waited for my Skinny Peppermint Mocha, which in my opinion is one of the main reasons to love the Holiday Season, I walked around the shop looking at all the overpriced, coffee-themed gifts.  Then I saw her: the woman who made me appreciate my parents’ strict rules concerning how to behave in public.  This woman, probably in her mid-forties, was curled up is a corner chair, and she was barefoot.  She had kicked off her sandals before tucking her feet under one thigh.  Maybe she was confused and thought she was in her own house, but I doubt it.  So I ask you, when did we become so comfortable in public that being barefoot with your feet on the furniture is acceptable?  And did I mention that the chair was upholstered?  God knows what is living in the fabric and Poly Fill of that chair.  Well, lady, whatever is living on that chair, is now on your bare feet.  Please, people, no matter how comfy the soft chair and adult contemporary music of the coffee shop make you feel, keep your shoes on.  Let’s at least pretend we were all raised with a little grace and dignity.  Fighting back irritation and gags, I grabbed my coffee and got back on the road.

Over the next 100 miles, I saw the failure of our driver’s education programs.  For the sake of my sanity, please remember these tried and true rules of the road:

  1. The left lane is the passing lane, also known as the “fast lane.”  If the speed limit is 65 mph and you have your cruise control set to 65 mph, get over to the right lane!  Some of us have places to go and are very tired of watching you hold your phone to your ear oblivious to the line of cars piling up behind you!
  2. Furthermore, the signs that state “Slower traffic keep right” means to get in the right-hand lane if you prefer to drive under the speed limit or slower than the woman pounding on her steering wheel behind you.  Get over.  Get over.  Get over!
  3. Tailing me so closely that all I can see in my rearview mirror is the grill of your monster truck will not make me go faster.  Can’t you see that the person in front of me will not get over?
  4. Unless you have Ariel from Footloose in the car with you and plan to reenact the car-straddling scene, stop driving the exact same speed as the person next to you.  Please see #1 for proper use of the left lane.
  5. If I am leaving two car lengths between my car and the car in front of me, that space is not actually for you to fill.  The guy behind me in the monster truck is getting really angry.  He could pass me, but prefers to scare the hell out of me instead.  If I have to hit my brakes because you cut me off, he will literally roll over me.
  6. And finally, stop doing everything that is not related to driving including fiddling with your phone, eating, putting on mascara, reading (this is specifically to the woman who actually had a book propped on her steering wheel), digging around your floorboard, bag, or console, and lastly, please, please, put Muffy in her crate.  Would you drive with your baby in your lap?  Only if you’re Brittney Spears.
But in the spirit of Thanksgiving and the entire Holiday Season, I am thankful for all the elements of my recent road tripping, the irritable and the completely baffling.  The rage fueled my motivation to arrive home as quickly as possible, and the wonderment kept me awake.

Please feel free to include your driving pet peeves, road trip wonders, and rules of the road in the comment section below.  Knowledge is power, people.  Let’s educate the masses.