July 21, 2018

leeches only sometimes suck (things I learned on the road trip - part one)

We're at our end destination, my brother-in-law's cabin, and in the flurry of hugs and dinner and wine and the exchanging of hilarious stories on the deck last night, there wasn't time to chronicle the four-hour drive that takes five hours, the one we make every year but that always teaches us new things.

The house is quiet this morning, though I suspect my brother- and sister-in-law rose earlier and kept their morning ritual of sitting outside looking down at the dark river and sipping mugs of espresso while holding hands and silently watching the sun rise.  They do this every morning.  It's so adorable that I want to swoon.  They appear to have gone back to bed, though how they do this with espresso in their systems is kind of mind-boggling.

I learned some things yesterday.

1.  It turns out I am capable of driving twenty-five miles per hour over the speed limit, if put into the midst of a press of cars and in need of passing and getting over so I can drop out of the madding fray and let everyone just go on with their lives without me, with my blessing.  Driving this far over the speed limit usually induces a sense that invisible high-tech helicopters are flying overhead clocking my speed and that any second now, I will be targeted and pulled over in an embarrassing display of karmic correction and serving as an example to the others who were, ironically, going faster than I was.  I actually start crouching down a little in my seat.

P.J. calmly pointed out they don't have invisible helicopters and that middle-aged women driving minivans do not typically experience this, but it bore down on me anyway, a great fear.  (And it makes me angry that I wouldn't be targeted, because we all know who would be targeted, minivan or not.)  In a way, I'm proud of myself for gunning eight-five at one point.  And proud of the minivan.  I never thought one could do that.  Our minivan is named Morrison (Van Morrison, get it?) and he is a good boy.

2.  Gaffney, South Carolina, self-declared peach capital of the Universe, has let us all down.  If you never saw the Great Gaffney Peachoid Ass Tower in its decades of glory, you missed an American road trip icon.  It was a giant peach, but the color and shape and the realistic vertical dimple made anyone traveling southbound on I-85 see a giant ass, lifted high and proud by the side of the highway for all to gaze upon and wonder.  I suspect they sold a lot of peaches by virtue of the Ass Tower.

Yesterday we saw that they must have finally grown weary of being famous for having an Ass Tower instead of peaches, because they've sent some people up in a bucket or on really tall ladders with some paint, and now it carries the partial reddish hues of a true peach, and a much less pronounced ass-crack dimple, and the leaf to the south has been wrapped around to the front so that it just shows from the southbound point of view.  In short, it looks like a boring old peach, and where's the point in that?  "Oh, a peach, whatever," motorists say, and they don't pull off and buy peaches because hello, we're all Georgia-bound anyway and they got there first on the peach gig.

The Great Gaffney Peachoid Ass Tower

The Great Gaffney Peachoid Ass Tower is no more.  Damn it.

3.  At some point, Kate's Visions of Plenty CD must be played and we must sing along and tap our feet or knees, because eventually all roads lead to Birmingham, Alabama, and those violins are meant to be heard among road signs and billboards and pavement in need of repair.

4.  When I'm not mentally unbalanced while we're driving (which tends to be a fair portion of our car-time together, resulting in angst-laden conversations and periods of uncomfortable silence), when I'm decent company, I'm capable of seeing clearly that P.J. is an awesome companion on the road.  We were weird and laughing most of the way, and having good, serious conversation in-between the weirdness.  P.J. is the best.

5.  South Carolina is doing something as creepy as fuck.  Most of the overpasses have those digital marquees that transportation departments can use to announce things like an amber alert or an upcoming construction zone or all-football-traffic-use-left-fork-ahead.  South Carolina is using theirs - all of them - and they are everywhere - to announce how many motorist deaths have happened so far this year, with an admonition to slow down and drive safely.  They all read something like this:  "511 Motorist Deaths in South Carolina This Year - Please Drive Safely".

The first one made sense.  The fourth one made us realize this was a statewide Thing they're doing.  The tenth one we barely noticed.

The eleventh sign, we noticed.  It read:  "512 Motorist Deaths .... Please Drive Safely."  They're maintaining a live ticker that adds immediate body counts and that is skin-crawlingly creepy.  We were almost to Georgia at that point and wanted out of South Carolina even more than we usually do.

(Except for when we passed through Inman.  Just so you know, I waved in that general vicinity.)

6.  I'm straining but I simply cannot remember how we got onto the subject of leeches.  I think it was Stand By Me, or lakes, or some other random thing, but we started thinking about leeches, and once you do, it's kind of hard not to think about leeches any more.  It occurred to us that we don't know what they eat while they're baby leeches trying to turn into big grown-up leeches, and the idea of leech-covered fish didn't seem right to us, and then we wondered if they ever leave a larval stage or if they just are overgrown larvae, and then we wondered how Victorian-era hospitals even got all those leeches and whether it was somebody's job to be a leech-gatherer, and what that was like.

At this point, Google and LTE got involved, and it turns out there were women who were professional leech-finders who would wade out into ponds in rural England and find them.  And then the sentence "By 1863, English hospitals were using imported leeches" just about caused me to wreck, because that was probably the unknown beginning of the whole outsourcing thing and the introduction of peril to the global economy.  They had perfectly good leeches right there, but they put the leech-finders out of work by importing them.  What the fuck, England?

Also, there are leeches that don't suck.  Literally.  I mean, in general, all leeches suck.  You know what I mean.  Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to discuss the efficacy of vacuum cleaners?

7.  We were in rural Georgia at this point, and trying to determine the best exit to take to hit Highway 17, so we consulted Google's Navigator.  (I really do love Google, just so you know this.)  P.J. keyed in the information, and we waited a bit, and instead of hearing, "In seven miles, take Exit Whatever onto Whatever Road, then turn left," the pleasant women's voice said very sweetly, "I'm not sure how to help you," and nothing more.  That's when I almost wrecked again because I was laughing so hard that the tears were stinging my eyes and fogging up my glasses and I couldn't see and she's not allowed to say that because what if we really were stranded and hopelessly lost somewhere?  "I'm not sure how to help you."  If we were in the desert at that point, trying to figure out whether that cactus was the one we'd just passed, I'd throw my cell phone into the sand and just walk off and die of thirst, because fuck that.

8.  My brother-in-law just made us all a pot of espresso.  He brought it in cups that he obviously found by digging around in some child's doll house and stealing the tiny dishes set.  This was my first espresso.  I have decided that in spite of the fact it is traditionally served in ridiculous doll house cups on little doll house saucers, it is irrefutable proof of a beneficent god who loves us and wants to give us good things.

Now the clouds look blurry.

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