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800 MILES: Part 4

July 4, 2010

Featured Article, Words

“800 MILES (or Parenthood is not for Wusses)”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | PART 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

There are many reasons to ♥ an iPhone. For instance, being able to update your Facebook status with a photo of the devilish Pentecostal church sign you just saw while waiting at a Sheetz for your egg-and-Swiss sandwich to be made. Or the ability to document stray thoughts to yourself with the phone’s excellent audio recorder, such as: “Yo, Self, I want to say that your decision, Self, to drive 800 miles in one day to haul your son’s broken-down Honda Accord back from Chattanooga via U-Haul Ford truck was not one of your brain’s bright shining moments. I’m just saying, Self.” Or checking your Italian ‘Phrase of the Day’ app whose following entry is something I wish to tell this Honda to its face once we meet again: ‘Non sono contento di come ti sei comportato.’ TRANSLATION: ‘I am not pleased with the way you have behaved.”

Then, there’s the ability to get one’s often directionally-challenged Self all the way to the nether regions of Tennessee by hauling down a map from  satellites in outer space. I’m talking iPhone GPS, which since its advent in my life has led to a dramatic diminishment in the life-threatening behavior of mis-unfolding the directions as you drive with one hand while manipulating with the other the accordion-fold kabbalah of a map of the Southeastern states.

NOTE TO SOON-TO-BE-16-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER: The previous description is for literary and descriptive purposes only and has never actually taken place, like, literally, in any car under my command, ever, in my life. And good luck with your forthcoming application for your temps.

Yet as with many things in life (alcohol, marriage, birth) there are upsides and downsides. The upside: the cool, pulsating blue jewel on my tiny iPhone screen successfully led me to the outer burrough of Chattanooga  and within striking distance of the U-Haul shop where the car dolly awaited that I’d hitch on to haul the Honda back home. The downside: I had not foreseen to mount the iPhone on the dashboard or pay for one of the expensive apps that talk you through the directions so you can drive with two hands.Which is why I was back to map days, holding the wheel with one hand and the iPhone with the other, squinting at the blue dot and what it was trying to tell me about where to turn next as I hunted down this U-Haul outpost.

NOTE TO SOON-TO-BE-16-YEAR-OLD (AND SOON-TO-BE DRIVING) DAUGHTER: This is a work of fiction and all incidents described herein are a product of the author’s imagination. Who should have stopped to study his iPhone. But that’s why this is a drama.

My tension had diminished in the previous hundred miles on the Chattanooga approach due to the soothing guidance pouring through my iPhone ear buds of the Buddhist monk Ajahn Sujato talking me through a loving-kindness meditation. This was useful for coping with all the aggressive driving going on around me while dashing south on busy Interstate 75, a kind of slightly slower American Autobahn minus the blutwurst.

NOTE  No. 4 TO U-Haul CEO Edward J. Shoen: Hey, Ed. It’s been awhile since we talked. Hope you are well. Listen, I have three words for you (four if you don’t count the hyphen): ‘Dash-mounted talking GPS.’ It’s a winner, Ed. U-Haul’s position as a market leader in rentals to aggrieved long-haul Dads would be indomitable with such cutting-edge technology. Of course, first you might want to get around to cruise-control and lose the hand-crank windows on your Ford rental trucks. Can you bring this up at the next board meeting?

So, all of a sudden there’s a huge long bridge over some Tennessee river in front of me. Almost immediately after that my GPS shows a set of turns that looks like a Gordian knot, a veritable Buntline Hitch, upon exiting the bridge. I successfully manage the bridge, then the nasty turn-off, then …. WTF?! I’m confronted with a roundabout. Now, anyone who has ever driven long distances in Europe has encountered the roundabout. As  I have driven in Europe several times, I had roundabout experience, but it had been a decade ago. Obviously, some ex-pat Limey has achieved a position of some importance in the Tennessee Department of Highways.

As experienced Roundaboutians are aware, when first encountering one, the Self pauses, especially if it is an American Self which did not grow up with roundabouts, not to mention blutwurst or kipper and deviled kidneys. The Self ponders: What the heck am I supposed to do here and who goes first? I have  to say: the volume level on one’s roundabout cognitive dissonance cranks even higher when one is driving with one hand and trying to scan an iPhone GPS with the other. I nearly sideswipe an EED-jit (if you’ll excuse my Irish) who suddenly appears in the roundabout beside me in a sedan, though I am sure the police report, would it have come to that, might well have had something to say about who the proper eed-jit was.

Rattled and in need of a nap with my sleep-addled white cat upon my own nether regions, I finally pull the Ford truck into the lot of the U-Haul station, concluding the first 400 miles of this journey. I turn off the motor, resting my head for a moment against the steering wheel. I owe a thank-you to Mr. Christopher, the Catholic de-frocked former patron saint of travelers. I open the door and the cool air-conditioned cabin exhales its icy comforts out into the blast-furnace heat of a Chattanooga June day. I look up and there stands Lou Gossett Jr.

My saviour. | To Be Continued.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | PART 4 | Part 5 | Part 6



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