This past weekend, my brother pointed out that we wouldn’t have to suffer through drinking iced coffee out of straws that were too long for our cups if he still carried a pocketknife.*
“If I had that,” he said. “I could just cut the straws.”
“Sure,” I said. “But you probably shouldn’t carry a knife.”
“I know,” he said. “But if I did, I could do stuff with it.”
I can’t argue with logic like that. Especially if one of the things he wants to do is get thrown out of a Dunkin’ Donuts in West Philadelphia.
In any case, my best friend from high school would agree with his sentiment. She was constantly using her miniature Swiss Army Knife to do all kinds of things that were totally unnecessary, like filing her nails and cutting stray threads from a hemline. With her on the scene, there was no box that would go unopened, no CD packaging left in tact. She lived for the days when someone needed a sandwich cut in half.
Her behavior was all perfectly reasonable – by Pennsylvania standards, at least – and I accepted her snipping and slicing as purely utilitarian. Until the switchblade incident.
It happened while we were on a road trip through the South. I was half-asleep on a beach in North Carolina when the unmistakeable sound of a knife popping open startled me awake.
“What the hell was that?!” I asked, sitting bolt upright.
“Just me,” she said, catching the sun on the three-inch blade of a white-handled knife with silver inlay. “I just bought it.”
“What do you need that for?!” I asked.
She shrugged. “I didn’t have a switchblade. And you can’t buy them back home.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t buy it in pink.”
“They didn’t have one,” she replied. “I looked.”
“Well that’s too bad,” I said, rolling my eyes and settling back into my nap. “Just do me a favor and be careful with that, would you?”
Perhaps an hour later, I awoke again, this time to the sound of fabric ripping.
“What are you doing???” I asked, shading my eyes against the sun.
“I’m using my switchblade to cut the sleeves off this t-shirt!” she said, triumphantly holding up what was now a tank top that had a picture of a shark riding a motorcycle on it.
I had to hand it to her, for someone carrying a knife that’s illegal in close to twenty states, she could not have found a less threatening way to use it.
“Do you need anything cut?” she asked.
“No, I do not,” I replied. “And keep that thing away from me.”
I might have been just 20 at the time, but I was very much aware of my propensity for disaster. Just hours before, I had pulled into the parking lot of a small diner outside Raleigh and knocked the wooden sign posted on the edge of their property right out of the ground.
“Do you think we should still go in?” I asked after shoving the sign back into its place and packing the dirt around its base.
“I don’t see why not,” she shrugged.
And if there are better words to live by while on a road trip, I’ve never heard them.
“I don’t see why not!” became our rallying cry as we drove through the Carolinas, over to Tennessee, up through western Virginia and back to Pennsylvania.
Should we stop at the “Virginia’s Largest Flea Market” and pretend to be antique armoire collectors?
Should we use the $.25 perfume dispenser in the ladies room at the Davey Crockett Travel Center in Greensville, Tennessee?
Should we go to a biker bar in the middle of the day in Kentucky and order tater tots? (Are we even in Kentucky – and if not, should we go there?)
Should we do it all while wearing daisy dukes and cowboy boots?
I don’t see why not!
There are two schools of thought as to how we survived that trip without incident. One is that we were extremely lucky. The other is that we were so obnoxious that people had the good sense to avoid us. I don’t know which is correct, but it was a blessing either way since one of us was carrying a small collection of weapons and the other had a habit of hitting things at slow speed with a Chevy Malibu.
Luckily for us – and everyone else we crossed paths with – it all turned out just fine. We did exactly what you’re supposed to do on road trips: we went new places, saw new sites and tried new things. And we did, in fact, do it all in cowboy boots.
Perhaps what’s most remarkable of all, our trip took place before technology infiltrated every aspect of our lives. We had no GPS to guide our route, no smart phones to offer restaurant and bar recommendations, no apps to locate cheap motels or find the least expensive gallon of gas.
We did things the old fashioned way. We wandered from city to city and site to site with the help of nothing more than a few recommendations and some well-placed attraction signs. And we got there – ladies and gentlemen – by using a map.
Should my friend and I take a trip today, we never would have to wonder aloud about what state we’re in or ask a local where to get the best breakfast. We would never stop at the Davey Crockett Travel Center without first using phones to see what it had to offer in the way of signature snacks. And we never would have threatened to kill one another for failing to fold the map properly.
Most people might find the safety and efficiency of technology on the road appealing. But I do not. To me, the best road trips aren’t the ones where you have a schedule and check list – or even a destination. They’re the ones where you just go and see where you end up. (Much like this post).
And sometimes, when I set out on a trip now, I ask myself: Should I switch off the GPS and see what I can find without it? Should I lock my phone in the glove box and pretend it doesn’t exist? Should I be wearing cowboy boots?
I don’t see why not.
*As a surprise to no one, it was me who started this conversation by complaining about the oversized straws. He was merely problem-solving by mentioning knives.