Oh, middle America, you’re so… middle-y…
If you’ve ever read David Foster Wallace’s excellent essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (within the collection that bears the same name), then you now know how it feels to drive from New York to northwest Ohio. I had the wonderful experience of making this drive in order to be part of the family holiday shenanigans last week. Why not fly, you ask, and skip the monotony of 10 hours of never-changing scenery and Pennsylvania state troopers who hide in the trees like ninjas? Because the airlines are a collective of dickwads who feel it’s okay to charge someone $500 for a roundtrip ticket for a sub-2 hour flight around the holidays, and I refuse to support the rape of the American flier. (Rape of the American Flier, by the way, is an excellent title for a dramatic thriller or Michael Moore documentary.)
So, when given the much cheaper option of renting a car from the good folks at Budget (thanks, Budget!), we decided to go that route instead and get all up in Route I-80 to Toledo. If you’ve never been, I cannot stress to you enough how much the entirety of the middle of the country (or at least the portion from Pennsylvania to Iowa) looks exactly. the. same. Being forced to drive through that sameness for so many hours can push you to the brink of turning into Jack Nicholson in The Shining. But it can also teach you a lot. So here, for the benefit of future cross-country drivers, are the Main Things I Learned Whilst Driving from New York to Toledo:
- There is always a Rihanna song playing somewhere on the radio. Also, Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”
- I don’t care how many commercials I see featuring emaciated children in war-torn African villages. There are no worse places in the world than rural truck stop/gas station bathrooms. Where you at, Sally Struthers?
- We need to start being concerned about the high suicide rate within America’s deer population.
- There are far too many things that are “World Famous” in the state of Pennsylvania. If they were truly “World Famous,” they wouldn’t be stuck between a Dress Barn and a strip club that probably features not one, but two amputee dancers. Get it straight, Pennsylvania. You’re only “World Famous” for the following things: the worst football fans in the NFL, cheesesteak, Amish furniture, and the epically stupid shit that came out of Rick Santorum’s mouth from 2005 to 2012.
- Arby’s. Always Arby’s. And fuck yourself if you ever say regular fries over curly fries.
- Tollbooth workers in the Midwest are light years better than their counterparts here at NYC’s bridges and tunnels. They sometimes go minutes, or perhaps even hours, without seeing another human being, and when they do, it’s like that scene inCast Away when an at-the-end-of-his-rope Tom Hanks sees the ship passing by. An NYC tollbooth worker actively tries to pretend you’re not there. I could tell one of them that I have their kids duct-taped and stuffed in my trunk, and they’d still give me nary a glance while collecting my $12.
- I’ve heard the print version is good, but the audio version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants is pheeeenomenal.
- I’ll never not giggle when I pass a sign telling me how to get to Big Beaver, Pennsylvania.
- There is no species so readily willing to defend his pride than the Dad stuck driving his family across the country in a minivan. Passing this guy on the right while he putters along in the left lane because his daughter’s 27th consecutive viewing of Dora’s Enchanted Forest Adventures has finally driven him insane is like kicking a sleeping grizzly bear in the balls. He will take your passing as an affront to his lost manhood and be up your ass within 1/8 of a mile, the safety of his own family be damned. At least until his wife wakes up, realizes what he’s doing, and screams at him until he slows back down and gets back in the right lane. Can you tell I don’t have kids yet??