Thirty-five hours in a car, driving from Texas to New York, gives any man a lot of time to think. Even armed with my very favorite conversation companion and the book on tape she so smartly purchased for the trip, my mind betrayed me, working overtime behind the wheel, at every rest stop, in the bathrooms of the various fast food joints we allowed ourselves to dine at, and most definitely in the curtained darkness of the two-star hotel bedrooms where we attempted to recharge. The usual themes were along for the ride: serial killers, random abductions, backwoods gas-station rapes, long, long thought given to what/who might be in every windowless van or truck we passed, or more likely passed us on our way, and, of course, the nearly constant thought – I keep it there intentionally – that one of my car’s four tires will soon burst, sending our vehicle into a scientifically proven impossibility of in-the-air three-sixties followed by an immediate crushing by the five or so eighteen-wheelers plowing towards us on their southbound route to deliver kiddie-porn into the eager hands of Arkansas pedophiles. I never stop thinking about this possibility because I operate under a rule I invented that my buddy once termed, “Peter Rosch’s Law of Surprises.” The gist being: bad things only happen when you aren’t expecting them. Think about it – ever get a ticket when you were expecting to get a ticket? Anyone ever die the day you spent thinking about them passing on? If so, maybe my Law of Surprises is just that – mine and only my law.
My wife thinks I don’t like her driving – I let her drive for about three hours of that thirty-five, and I suppose that is all the evidence some would need to validate her suspicions. In reality, I don’t trust my car. I’m not sure I trust any car. We put an awful lot of faith in our vehicles as they hurl down our nation’s asphalt-bloodline. I once saw a man in Brooklyn, go gently through an intersection, hit a pothole, only to have his driver side airbag detonate on the spot and into his coffee-cup holding hand and face. He was doing about five or ten miles per hour, and fortunately didn’t have any of the aforementioned pedo-wheelers bearing down on him from in front or behind. It was an older vehicle, but so is mine. Sometimes I’ll just stare at the embossed word “airbag” on my steering column or above my glove box, utterly convinced that it is going to pop at any moment – leaving me blinded, paralyzed, at least long enough to careen into the trees of some forgotten woods near the interstate – making it all the easier for the eyes of the hills to come down and turn me and the Mrs. into torture-play-things. Other times, I question the inner workings of the steering column itself. Has one ever just snapped? Isn’t it possible? I’m not going to bother googling to find out, because even if there is no record of it, I’d say it is at least possible. And the brakes? Sure, I’ve had them inspected recently, but how do I know the guy who looked at them didn’t see they were defective, and decide to let me drive on them anyway just because he was in a rush to get home that night and see the premiere episode of Dexter – maybe even subconsciously he’d made a decision to experiment with causing deaths on his own. Lastly, only in that it will be the last thing I mention out of the hundreds of things I think could happen with any car – new or used – from time to time, I’ll envision what might happen if the random bounce of a still-lit cigarette might ignite under my vehicle. BOOM! Done and done. But at the very least, we won’t have to move any furniture later that night in front of our La Quinta bedroom door to prevent some thrill-kill from happening. It’s a long ride from Texas to New York, it’s an even longer ride if your a passenger in my head.