Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tales from the Road

I'm now safely at home, with all the storms gone (and a slight chance of more storms later today).

A few observations from my travels:

Small-town businesses often need to double up, so that they offer more than one main thing, probably because their customer base is small enough that they can't get by doing just one thing. When I mentioned the karate studio/tanning parlor in Enchanted, Inc., I was not making that up. For a while, there was one of those in my home town. Come to think of it, for a while just about every business in town, except maybe the bank, post office, grocery store and Dairy Queen, was a /tanning parlor, as everyone bought tanning beds and stuck them in their other businesses. These days, it seems like a lot of businesses are /tobacco shop. In one town, what used to be the Chinese take-out/donut shop is now a donut shop/tobacco shop. In another town, there's the bait shop/tobacco shop, which makes a little more sense.

The doing things with your non-dominant hand trick is a good way of making yourself aware of doing things you usually do automatically, and therefore don't remember doing. I have a very bad habit of forgetting whether or not I locked my front door when I go out of town. Never mind that I have never forgotten to lock my front door, as soon as I get on the road, I suddenly start fretting that I didn't lock it, and I spend much of the trip imagining the door being unlocked so that it blows open in the wind (which it does sometimes if it's not locked). When I went to Austin for the Nebula Awards, I got a block away from home, couldn't remember locking the door, and turned around to check just because I didn't want to spend the weekend fretting about it. This time, I locked the door with my left hand, then checked it with my right, and I definitely remembered locking it.

Now I need to find a way to ensure that I've packed crucial things. Again, not that I tend to forget things, except in extreme or unusual circumstances, but I feel like I have and worry about it until I get to my destination and find that everything I need is in my suitcase, after all. I did that, too, on my way to Austin, when I got on the highway and suddenly couldn't remember packing my make-up bag. I got so stressed about it that I pulled off at the next exit, while I was still close enough to home to turn back, pulled into the first parking lot off the exit, opened the trunk and checked my suitcase to find that I'd packed everything I needed. And then I noticed that I was in the parking lot of a Korean porn shop/cell phone store. If anyone recognized my car, I hope they thought I needed a new cell phone. I've started making a checklist of things to pack, then checking off items as they go in the suitcase, then carrying the list with me so I can prove to myself that I packed them. I'm not sure putting things in my suitcase with my left hand would work.

On the back roads, there are certain kinds of drivers you often encounter. There's the one who pulls onto the main road from a side road, right in front of you, like he's in a huge hurry, so that you have to slam on your brakes and swerve to miss him, and then he drives 25 mph in a 70 mph zone -- all the way to the next turn, maybe 200 yards down the road. And then there's the Guy Who Can Drive At Only One Speed. He toodles along at about 55 mph in a 70 mph zone, but then when he gets to a town where the speed limit drops to 35 mph, he keeps going at 55 or sometimes even speeds up a bit. This is especially annoying on two-lane roads, where sometimes the roads widen as they go through towns. You'll have been stuck behind this guy on the open road, then finally reach a passing zone with a clear road so you can get around him, then you hit a town a couple of miles later and he'll pass you in the town where there are multiple lanes, and then you catch up with him soon after you get out of town. Where are the small-town speed traps when you need one?

I think I may need a slight nap before I get to work for the afternoon. It's only a two-hour drive, but it leaves me utterly drained.

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