Another Friday, another drive up to LMU to rescue my college freshman from a weekend on campus. It’s a beautiful campus, but the town is smaller than our high school. It would have been cruel to leave Tommy up there for a three day weekend. Besides, he is actually starting to make friends during the week, so the weekend of forced interaction with peers is slightly less urgent now. I don’t love driving. In my fantasy world I have a driver and I get to spend my time in the car reading books, working on lists and writing. My real life is far less glamorous.
I got away later than I intended because I had to make a last minute supply drop at the high school for the 10th grader. “I need a bun sized hair net by 3 pm.” Eventually, Evan and I headed out of town. Well, we went the wrong way and ended up at East Town Mall, THEN we headed out of Knoxville. Have I mentioned that I am completely directionally impaired? Oh. Sorry. We traveled along happily until we came to an abrupt standstill on the Interstate that lasted about 20 minutes after which traffic resumed normal behaviors. I guess it was just some sort of pretend you live in Atlanta social experiment or something. As everyone resumed normal speeds and spaces between cars, it was clear than the 20 minute interruption had disturbed some of the other drivers. Right before my eyes, the cars around me became animated Wacky Races contestants. Cars drove in the grassy median and the paved emergency lane. Motorcycles weaved so closely between cars you could have touched them with your hand. Someone pulled the Speed Buggy lift the body of your car up and over another car move. The aggressive driving was so absurd I thought we were being filmed for a B-movie.
I thought things would get easier when I got on the long, straight drive that is Hwy 63. I was wrong. The cartoon cars just added trailers with boats and Jet Skis. Instead of the usual smell of the tobacco fields to add atmosphere, the road was absolutely covered with the remains of skunks. I don’t know if there was an escape at some local skunk breeder’s farm or if that rural road is the direct path for skunk migration, but I have never seen such Pepe Le Carnage. Each furry spot on the road radiated a smell that covered a quarter of a mile. My passenger began a campaign of complaint. “Poo smell. Smell poo. Where poo? Yucky poo.” It didn’t help that the mermaid cartoon ended as we were traveling down skunk road. “Tv all done. No more car. I done. No car!”
On one of the rare stretches of road when the speed limit is actually above 45, I peeked over a hill to see a trooper’s car blocking the road in front of me. Everyone morphed from cartoon into real human beings as we pulled over and watched a helicopter land in the road. An ambulance rushed to the chopper. Everyone silently watched. Well, everyone except the one animated weasel from Roger Rabbit. Maybe it was a hyena from The Lion King. That one moron tried to drive in the grassy median to get past the helicopter. Several of us got out of our cars and gave that driver the evil eye, but it took a trucker’s horn beep alerting the nearby troopers to get the reckless driver to stop and wait for the emergency scene to get out of the road. As quickly as it landed, the Lifestar helicopter was in the air and on its’ urgent journey and the road was clear for drivers. The rest of the trip was calmer as all the drivers on the road thought about the family of the person in the helicopter. I briefly imagined myself on the gurney in the chopper with a medic holding a giggling Evan. Evan would throw goldfish crackers at my head while yelling, “Go faster.”
By the time I got to LMU I felt drained. I looked forward to the ride home with Tommy beside me doing his running commentary routine. Instead, 18-y-o Tommy hopped in the backseat to watch cartoon rats with his 3-y-o brother. I turned on the radio’s comedy channel to try and stay awake. I snickered at Patton Oswalt the stand-up while the boys laughed at Patton as Remy. I think Patton Oswalt is the only reason I made it home safe and sane.