>>> The Rollercoaster of Drama
By staff writer Simonne Cullen
July 3, 2005

Exactly 48 hours after you arrive home for the summer, you’re expected to either go to your summer job or go job hunting. Because everyone wants to spend their summer working in retail, watching 12-year-old mall rats festooned in all Abercrombie buy candy and try to convince the one cute high school guy ripping tickets at the cinema that they’re really fourteen. It’s pathetic to watch, but when you’re organizing clothes by size at Banana Republic, it’s these kind of freak shows that keep you out of a polyester coma. For a freak show with more long-term satisfaction there is the highly anticipated road trip of the summer, where you get to leave the overdeveloped 12-year-olds at home. (According to guys, there will be plenty more of them on the road anyway.)

The day after I graduated college, my best friend from high school—also coincidently the prom date of the movie stub guy—informed me that we would be heading down to Texas, and leaving at seven in the morning. We would only be driving down there so I would be left to my own devices to make it back home. What this really meant though, was an extra two more days before I would have to find a real job. So, armed with my democratic “think blue” rubber bracelet that had luckily fallen out of one of the thirty boxes and sixteen garbage bags holding all my dorm shit, we headed down to Lone Star State. And as exciting as the nineteen hour drive was, I’ve managed to devise some rules to keep you and everyone else in the car happy during a road trip.

“Who the fuck invented the License Plate Game? A fucking retarded toddler jacked up on Honey Nut Cheerios that’s who. “

1. The Driver, or Staying Alive as Long as Possible

Every friend drives differently. First, there’s the foreign friend who doesn’t understand the concept of lane change. Not only does she not signal when she wants to changes lanes, but she speeds up and blocks the nice old lady in the Oldsmobile next to her when she puts on her blinker. You’d say something to her about her handicap, but you’re too busy thinking about when she’s going to cross four lanes of traffic to reach the exit ramp. So you pray for God to clear a path and steer the car to safety.

Then there’s Lead Foot, distant cousin of Big Foot and the abominable snowman who, on a traffic-free road, doesn’t realize that the speedometer stick is bordering on three-digit numbers. Normally this person likes to drive at night when everyone is fast asleep from the purring of the engine, but I also think she likes to drive at night because not only are there fewer cops out, but the screams of panic are substantially subdued. In her defense she does make good time—all I’m saying is, this type of driver is not ideal for terrain with deer signs every five miles.

Then there’s the driver who constantly veers off the road because she’s too busy jamming to the music. It’s always fun to watch the panic subside as she violently swerves back onto the road and casually explains, “Sorry everyone, I was too busy geeking out to the music.” But then she does it every time a Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff song comes on. Which is a red flag indicating that YOU SHOULD NEVER HAND OVER THE KEYS TO HER AGAIN. If only for your ear’s sake.

What is the deal with tractor trailer drivers? I’m sorry that you have a job with no companionship that requires you to listen to Harry Potter on tape, but that’s no reason to attempt to run little Toyota Corollas off the road. These guys aren’t so bad during the day when there are a lot of witnesses, but at night the sketchy semi-drivers come out of the woodwork—literally. At one point it felt like we were in Joy Ride: The Sequel when a semi came barreling down the road behind us with it’s brights on. The grill of the truck had fire and sharp teeth painted on it for Christ’s sake. Obviously there’s an unwritten rule stating that semi trucks dominate the road at night and our unsouped up Hondas and Corollas don’t belong on the road with the big boys unless Vin Diesel is behind the wheel. Come on, The Fast and the Furious sequel was just as bad as the original and also stars Paul Walker—does anyone see a pattern here?

2. The Cops

Here’s a simple rule to live by, before I get into what a bag of dolphin blow hole fucking asshole state troopers are:

Out of state plates + speeding = ticket
Out of state plates + speeding + boobies = No ticket
Out of state plates + speeding + penis = No ticket (Arkansas only)

If you’d like a more colorful explanation of my opinion of cops, please read on.

Cops always pull you over when you have out of state plates because they know that if they ticket you, you won’t be coming back to contest it. And if you ever get pulled over, just let the driver do the talking—sure she might be appallingly flirtatious, or a complete moron, or overly sweet, or so well-endowed upstairs that she’s willing to claim to be lost even though the MapQuest directions are chilling on the dashboard, but this is no time for judgment. She’s trying to get out of a $200 ticket. To her, that’s a Coach purse; to a guy, that’s fifty rum and cokes. So if she tells the rest of the passengers to flash the goodies, do it—unless you’d all like to divide the ticket evenly.

Note: If the cop starts talking like he’s Hank from King of the Hill, it’s better just to nod and say, “Yes sir/no ma’am.” Because even the hard nips on a freshly stuffed female skunk won’t stop this trophy from writing you up.

3. The Games

Who the fuck invented the License Plate Game? A fucking retarded toddler jacked up on Honey Nut Cheerios that’s who. Let me tell you about this game. When you’re on the road and see a car that has a plate different from yours, you scream that state’s name out and point at it in disbelief—you know, kinda how you pointed at the TV when Jacko’s verdict came in. Well this game fucking sucks. Honestly, who wants everyone to cram to one side of the car to see a Missouri license plate? No one in your car should, but even the most endearingly obnoxious of friends can get annoying when they won’t stop screaming “KENTUCKY! Kentucky! Oh look, there’s another Kentucky! Kentucky!” While in the state of Kentucky. Which is when the driver should bust out the game called “Tuck and Roll Bitch. Tuck and Roll.”

4. The Food

In the Midwest the place to eat on road trips is Cracker Barrel. It’s this sweet homey country store with a restaurant attached, frequented by blue hairs and slow service, but with a cheap quality candy that will keep you energized for hours—which you’re going to need to make it across the heart of America (scenery is all corn until you hit an ocean or a mountain). The best part about Cracker Barrel is the flavored candy sticks. They’ve got every flavor imaginable, including cotton candy, bubble gum, spearmint, sassafras, and clove. I still don’t know what sassafras is, but clove is a spice you use when making a honey baked ham. Aggie learned that when she spit it out and said it tasted like Christmas. But it was the last stick in the jar so there’s obvious high demand for it in the South.

Not far down the line after eating comes the farting. Guys aren’t shy about letting one rip in a car full of girls he knows he’s not going to hook up with. And girls fart in front of each other and say cute things like, “I tooted,” and then roll down the windows and have a good laugh. But then there are some people who fart silently and pray that the aroma doesn’t start circulating. Look, you can do that on a plane and in church (let he who has no gas cast the first stone), but when you’re in a closed compartment with four other people, you have about as much of a chance of hiding it as I do getting Wimbledon sex from Roddick after the big game. Otherwise we’ll all become first graders and retreat to the “he who smelt it dealt it” theory. There’s another way to root out the silent gasser, and that’s by starting with the person who blames the stench on road kill. “It must have been that armadillo back there.” Yeah right, unless that armadillo just ate 32 bean burritos and a mountain of fire sauce at Taco Bell, no one’s believing you. But you’ll really know who farted when you’re driving through the mountain states and the only thing the person can blame it on are pinecones. Sorry buddy, that’s just reaching too far. Some will try to blame it on a skunk, but skunk has a distinct smell…and it’s not the aroma of a ham and cheese omelet from Cracker Barrel mixed with cloves. Hmmmmmm…

5. Getting Sidetracked

Be suspicious of any “point of interest.”

For a long time Aggie’s been my travel buddy. We’ve been to Orlando, New Orleans, Vegas, and all over Europe together. As is our tradition, we were looking for some untraditional stops. You know, the world’s biggest ball of twine, a Civil War battlefield, Trent Reznor’s house, whatever. This time it was Magnolia Manor, a point of interest on a highway sign, which was right on the border of Illinois. Funny story: two women on their way out from the tour told us it was a magnificent house. Optimistic as usual I asked if the tour guide was hot, and when prompted they hesitantly replied, “Nice boy, about your age.” Fine. Then someone explained to me who the 40-year-old man with the curly mustache was that said he’d let us explore the attic as long as we didn’t tell anyone. That was our first and last point of interest stop ever.

Also, if you’re headed out to Vegas and someone in the group wants to stop to see the Hoover Dam, just point to a large cement wall and say, “There you go, I just saved us a forty-five minute drive and twenty bucks worth of gas money.” Believe me I’ve been there, and looking back I would rather have paid to see Celine Dion in nipple tassels and the Drag Nudie Show as her chorus.

There’s this city in Missouri called Cooter. So Ag and I are driving and there’s like six signs along the way that say, “Five miles ‘til Cooter,” and “Visit Majestic Cooter,” and “Cooter home cooking.” How these signs are still standing firmly and not posted all over Collegehumor is beyond me.

6. Asking for Directions/Bathroom Breaks

Sometimes the co-pilot is too busy plotting how to rework Hilary Duff back into the music rotation, and the driver is forced to make an uneducated choice when it comes to an expressway intersection. Who cares that the little direction on your dial is now blinking E instead of W? You can always pull off the road and ask for directions. Now, normally I don’t stereotype, but somehow I feel like the main objective of the rest stop motorcyclist with the Confederate flag doo-rag and four missing teeth is not to tell us which interstate will take us to San Antonio, but perhaps instead to lead us personally back to Magnolia Manor to hang out with his Attic Buddy and crack open that case of Bud he’s got roped to the back of his bike.

At one point on the trip I thought maybe it would be fun to document the trip by photographing all the bad bathrooms at the gas stations Aggie made me pee in. Now I realize that we’ve all had that gas station experience anyway and it’s best just to urinate and pull it together. And now that Britney Spears has walked in there barefoot, anyone who refuses to open the door without the paper towel around her hand and washes her hands off with bottles of Evian and disinfects her entire body with sanitizer is considered a diva. What a bunch of armadillo shit. I call that clean.

7. Reaching the Destination

Normally at the end of every road trip is a nice comfy hotel and/or sandy beach waiting for you. Unfortunately for me, my bathroom antics caused Ag to drive five miles over the speed limit and drop me off at the San Antonio airport three hours before my flight departed. I wish I could have seen the city with her, but she had to dash off to whatever town she was interning at that didn’t have an airport…five hours away. So I saw the beauty of San Antonio from the postcard rack at the gift shop and the window of the plane, whose view was much better than it would have been from that sketchy attic anyway.