Sitting at a Gas Station: The Prelude
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Sitting at a Gas Station
First and foremost, I feel that I should shed some light on the chosen title. Just like my last adventure in travel and writing, which occurred in a pre-blogging world, the title aptly fit the experience (for those of you who need a refresher on the last title: “Suburban Girl with a Bus Pass; An Adventure in Culture, Custom and Cheekiness.”) The title, “The Doc In America” does not refer to my underlying need to further educate myself and rack up a student loan larger than the national debt, nor does it refer to the fact that I obviously need to have my head examined. “The Doc” is the nickname of my Jeep Cherokee (his full name is Doctor Heathcliff Burrell.) You see, ever since I was a child we named our cars. Our family roadsters were an integral part of our family, with their own needs, demands, wants and of course, personalities. It all started with our first station wagon, “Dino The Dinosaur” and has continued since then. All of our cars have been appropriately named. Getting a new car or as my Mom says, “a new to you” car, can be equated with adopting a pet. You have it for a couple of days, you get to know its personality and then, within a week, you name it.
I have personally owned a fleet of vehicles all with different quirks and heaps of character. It all began with a 1977 VW Bug named “Irving Ezra”, so named as he sounded like a little old Jewish man with a wicked cough when he started. Irving met his demise in the spring of my junior year of high school in a freak “wake and bake” stop sign accident (note that I was NOT the one who was stoned.) Then I owned a 1986 Jetta named “Cricket”, as her little 5-speed engine emitted a slight chirping noise. Later, I rescued Irving’s wife, “Lillian”, a 1974 VW bug, from the hands of a DIY restorer that had never bothered to restore her. She met her end at the hands of my senior class prank (still the best $200 I have ever spent!) Then came a big old whale of a gas-guzzling tank, a late 80’s Buick, named “Das Boat”, he was laid to rest/left for dead behind my sorority house. I think that the city of Cincinnati finally towed him away about two years after I graduated.
Eventually, I bought my first car from a dealership, a Saturn named, “Purcell.” Yeah, I know, odd name, but he was named after one of my favorite college professors who happened to be at the Saturn dealership when I signed my life and the life of my future first born child away for the car. After Purcell had seen spring breaks a plenty, the snowy Midwest, the humid South, the arid Desert, every coastline and crossed both borders of this country I decided that he had had enough abuse and sold him in Las Vegas. Upon my return to Cleveland I needed a car and along came “Gertie”, the 1992 Delta Royale 88, so named as you could easily picture a blue haired, bingo playing, troll toting, Virginia Slim Menthol 120’s smoking, Perkin’s AARP early bird special eating old lady sitting on a stack of phone books to peer over the steering wheel owning her. After two years of suffering through her battle with Alzheimer’s (she forgot how to unlock, how to unroll, how to be quiet and on more than one occasion, how to start) I had to let her go. She was replaced by The Doc. The Doc was named as he fixed the immediate woes in my life, was owned by a med student at one time and then by someone whose middle name is Burrell. Hence, the full name. As a side note, I did find and bring home the love of my life, “Priscilla” whom I have had with me for about 13 years. She is a bubbly 40 year old girl who loves to go topless! She is my 1967 convertible VW bug that is currently enjoying a nap in my garage for the winter.
Admittedly, I have a profound sense of attachment to my vehicles. Americans have always had an odd car culture unlike anywhere else I the world. We all have some sort of bond with the vehicles we own, drive, loathe and yet, cherish. They are our ticket to freedom and independence. They give us the freedom to roam where we like, when we want and thankfully (in most cities) keeps us independent from the unruly hands and unreliability of public transportation. No matter the condition of my vehicle, I have always said, “As long as it has 4 tires, a steering wheel, a stereo, 2/40 A/C (that would be 2 windows at 40mph air conditioning) and gets me from point A to point B, I will call it mine.”
Why-o, Why-o, Why-o, Did I Ever Leave Ohio?
Just like when I left for London, many of you were baffled at my need to travel and yet, this time, some of you completely understood that I suffer from a severe case of uncontrollable wanderlust. My recent 2.5 year stint in Ohio was the longest that I have lived there since I left at 18 years old. Although, I adore my family, friends and my home, I was in desperate need of a change of scenery. I have come to terms with my inner-travel demon and can easily admit that I am in fact a gypsy with a boat-load of furniture. Sure, I could have stayed in Ohio and continued beating down the door of every school district in Cleveland for a job while slaving away pouring wine for the high and mighty and substitute teaching on occasion. However, my weird twisted fall-on-your-face and pick-yourself-back-up-again luck finally came to the rescue. Hence, when the opportunity presented itself to educate the over-privileged future leaders of America, whose parents spend more on one year of education than my entire undergraduate degree, I took it.
At the current moment, I have acquired a mere 30 years of insanely odd and sublimely perfect moments of life experience as a foundation for my lifetime goals. Some of you have been privy to bits and pieces of rants on my life goals. However, for those of you that have blocked them out as incoherent babble, here they are in black and white.
1. To Be Happy. I was in kindergarten when I set this over arching life goal. When my teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up everyone else named a profession (fireman, police officer, athlete, doctor, ballerina, ice skater etc.) I however, stated that “I want to be happy.” Apparently, this was not a good choice on my part. The teacher called my Mom and told her that I was being “uncooperative with the exercise” and I was sent to the office. My Mom, thankfully, still believes this is the best goal she has ever heard.
2. To jump out of a perfectly good airplane. If I die doing it, at least I did it.
3. To travel one-way, around the world in one year. I don’t care by what means, mode of transportation or circumstances. Plane, train, automobile, yak, llama, rickshaw, hitchhike, catamaran, shrimp trawler...it doesn’t matter! I want to circumnavigate the globe.
4. To meet as many people as I possibly can and learn something about their lives, their history and their culture. (Humanism at its finest!)
So, in an odd way this job is giving me the chance to achieve portions of goal number 4 and add to my current repertoire of experiences living within other people’s culture and custom. Most of the time people assume that I am referring to the culture and custom of foreign lands. However, if you were raised in a medium sized blue collar city and have lived in some of the largest cities in the world, the middle of nowhere USA is totally a foreign land. It is completely true that I am an avid traveler, road trip guru and chronic sociologist (uh, people watcher/eavesdropper.) I have been known to pack a bag in under five minutes and leave for Chicago at 4 am on a Sunday because I NEEDED a break and had a day off. Any chance that I have ever had to travel somewhere I have taken. However, never in a million years would I ever say, “All right then, pack the car. We are heading to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania for the next two days.” I didn’t even know where in the hell Huntingdon, Pennsylvania was until about two weeks ago when it was assigned to me.
With all of that being said….it’s time to take this show on the road!