“Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” As a freelance musician, I would add that driving is just as certain as the first two. Hours and hours are spent in the little metal box that I can steer to my performances, rehearsals, lessons, and other people’s performances. One learns to rationalize the absurd amount of time spent in our cars. It’s my me time, no one bothers me, I can listen to the radio, get caught up with my audio book, I can watch the scenery go by. While all these things are true, it generally still sucks. I am not a person who can sit still for long periods of time, and if I know I will be driving for more than 2 hours on a given day, I make sure to get in an extra long run before I go. I have many little tricks to entertain myself in the car, the longer the trip, the more excessive the tricks become.
Before I drive, I plan the trip in my mind. If it is a three-hour trip, I will take a break at precisely 1 hour 45 minutes. Even if that means stopping at Podunk gas station. Especially if it means stopping at Podunk station. You never know what you are going to see. On my most recent trip, I found a gem. In the market section of the gas station, there were two oblong beige tables set together to make a square. They were the kind of tables you see when people are trying to cell CD’s or T-shirts before and after a concert. These particular tables were not being used in the selling of any merchandise, but rather were occupied with retired men, wearing either a ill-fitted flannel shirt and jeans, or letterman jackets and jeans. Or the flannel under the letterman, always with jeans. They were all sitting around the table, set up in the middle of the store, chatting away as if this was a totally normal place to set up to oblong tables.
It was about four in the afternoon, apparently around those parts (somewhere southwest of Madison, WI, on highway 151) this meant coffee hour. They sat on metal folding chairs, some leaned back, cupping their precious cup of gas station coffee. Gas station coffee is only for the bravest of souls, unless you live in Germany (Germany is this special land where gas station coffee is not offensive). They all had brought their own mugs, all of them those plastic mugs made primarily in primary colors, with the black plastic handle and the little sippy-cup opening. They were the coffee mugs that you can get at banks for opening a checking account, or from the local hardware store. They would don labels such as "Bills Bait Shop," or "Joes Hardware," or did at one point. Most of the labels were worn off years ago after one dishwasher session.
I quickly ran to the restroom, which was quite clean, and grabbed a water and a bag of chips. Not the “good for you” chips that I usually buy. No, the unhealthy, filled with everything bad you could possibly imagine, processed in an un-ecofriendly way chips. It’s another trick I have when on the road to amuse myself. There is nothing quite like the salty badness of mass produced chips to keep your mind of the dullness of driving. I am quite fond of the “cheddar” variations. No self-respecting cheddar would be found near the makings of these chips, but that really isn’t the point. The point is in indulging on something that would never be found in my house, a mostly harmless thrill.
OK, now I am hungry.