What I Learned on a 10-hour Drive with 5 Other Humans

Confinement in tight spaces for long spans with other humans is, at the same time, most definitely not what God envisioned for the race and very instructive.

Instructive at least in the sense that you learn much about yourself: what annoys you, what smells are most offensive, which family member breaks first in tight spaces for long spans.

But, if you’re observant, you can learn some other things, too.out to lunch

Northern Illinois is full of corn fields and wind turbine farms, responsible, one must presume, for much human ocular boredom syndrome (H.O.B.S. — “there’s not much to look at, here…”), for droves of farmers aimlessly shuffling through the infinite stalks of corn after having been rendered catatonic by the ultra-low-frequency electrical hum of sky-scraping wind turbines, for scores of formerly living birds who happened into the path of a truck-length turbine blade, and for minivans full of frazzled families thwarted by agrarian vistas in their attempts to distract one another with the “ABC Game.”

After several hours of driving, I envied the birds, in a sense, who at least were not confined in tight spaces with anything for any length of time.

It was while hypnotizing myself with the inhumanely-straight rows of corn stalks that I wondered if the ancient aliens allegedly responsible for Machu Picchu had also visited Illinois in epochs past to lay out planting lines, and wondered how quickly I would be dispatched should I, too, wander into the path of a spinning wind turbine, humming or not.

But while northern Illinois is full of corn and wind, it is remarkably lean on broadcast radio.

At one point, the only car audio available to us was a Spanish-language radio station. Strangely, fifteen minutes later the only musical sounds with which to drown out the hum of wind turbines and dying birds was a Karen Carpenter Tribute Station.

For those interested in such things, exposure to Karen Carpenter exacerbates the effects of a corn-induced hypnotic trance.

The more people there are in the car and the longer the drive, the more road work is being performed on your route. Doing a quick calculation with the new math, I determined that every traffic cone, striped barrel, and blinking display manufactured in the continental United States since 1974 was lining our route to southern Illinois. Traffic cones weren’t laid out nearly as neatly in Illinois as the corn, leading me to wonder what aliens have against good roads and safe driving, but they were nonetheless ubiquitous enough to become permanently etched on my retina.

Even now, when closing my eyes, I see blinking cone lights and my photographically-detected speed flashing at me in caution orange.

At least one passenger will always recognize the need for a bathroom break fifteen minutes after the most recent one has concluded. The cycle is perpetual, leading to conversations such as this in gas station bathrooms:

Dad, can I have a drink?

Do you have any money?

I was hoping that you would buy me one…

This exchange invariably invites a knowing glance, wink, and nod from other restroom patrons. Both the Restroom Lag Rule and tendencies of children toward socialism are, apparently, well known to road trip parents everywhere.

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