Monday, June 18, 2012

The Road Trip

A few weeks ago, my wife and I took an overland tour of the south-eastern United States. During the 1,700 mile road-trip I observed three oddities I feel it necessary to detail here.

The first occurred along Interstate 10 in Alabama. Low on gas, I pulled off at an exit and began filling the tank as my lovely bride attempted to utilize the service station restroom without making contact with any non-porous surfaces. While retrieving my receipt from the pump, I noticed an adult bookstore directly across the street. This, in and of itself, was not unusual. What was unusual was that this particular adult emporium also sold fresh fruit.

It appeared that the location was having a sidewalk sale of some type and alongside bins of what I can only assume were volumes of cerebral erotic poetry sat a veritable farmer’s market. Even more astounding, the entire enterprise was played straight. Not a single one of the signs employed double entendre or innuendos of any kind. I would have expected a suggestively-illustrated cucumber or, at the very least, a reference to their “big melons.”

There were even a handful of customers purchasing fruit from the stand. I do not know whether the bookstore and fruit-stand shared a proprietor or two local entrepreneurs had simply stumbled upon a mutual beneficial business model. At first I could not understand why anyone in lower Alabama would voluntarily acquire their produce from roadside pornography vendor, but upon further reflection I am willing to admit that this may be the most brilliant marketing in adult content.

Imagine you are live in the area and wish to pick up the dirty version of Muppets in Space. You can’t tell your wife that you need to run by Dirty Dan’s Mags & Stags so you simply explain that you have a hankering for some cantaloupe and plan stop at a fruit stand you noticed the other day. This draws no suspicion from the wife and technically you aren’t lying. Plus, if your choir director spots your car in front of the video store you can just tell him it was homemade smoothie day.

The second strange thing I noticed was the ubiquity of coin-operated scales in truck-stop men’s rooms. While the color-schemes varied, the basic premise remained identical: drop in a few quarters and you will be provided with your weight, lucky numbers, and horoscope. Several even sported signs encouraging potential customers to “do it for their health.”

Now if there is one thing long-haul truckers are known for it is their commitment to weight management. I hate to generalize, but why market to a demographic whose entire paycheck is based on remaining seated? How are these machines making money? If I was so obsessed with my appearance that I weighed myself every time I dropped a deuce I think I would just keep a scale in the cab.

Even if the technology to ascertain personalized destiny-altering numerical codes existed why would anyone believe that its deployment would be limited to Pilot stations in Mississippi? Now if it dispensed imitation cologne and questionable prophylactics you might have a deal.

The last curiosity we experienced was Billy, the waiter. Billy worked on staff at a coastal bar & grill and upon initially approaching our table he immediately inquired if we would “like a shot of Jager.” This would be only one of many times Billy would repeat this question over the course of our dining experience despite being repeatedly assured we were not pledging to a fraternity. Other than the occasional brand-specific liquor suggestions, Billy spent most of his time with a four top of females nursing unusually large margaritas. He appeared to be valiantly lobbying to become one of their future regrets, but alas the comely maidens were in no condition to appreciate his charms and left unimpressed.

Somewhat dejected, he slinked over to our table and didn’t even have the heart suggest Jager. It was at this moment my wife and I heard the sound of a balloon popping. As it turns, the restaurant employed a female clown known as “Chuckles” who was busy fashioning balloon animals for children. Chuckles looked as though she had lived a hard life and perhaps even served some Federal time, but she was doing an admirable job of delighting the kids despite the occasional popped balloon animal. So Billy’s reaction to the second balloon pop in as many minutes caught us by surprise.

At the sound of the burst balloon, Billy’s eyes narrowed and with a surprising degree of menace informed us that he “hated that f*****g clown.” Somewhat taken aback by his candor, we sat and listened as he vented about having to clean up the remnants of broken balloon animals while good ole’ Chuckles stood out by the boat dock sucking down Marlboro Reds. By the time we received our check, I had become convinced that Chuckles was one loud noise away from a violent demise.

Since our trip I have not become aware of any clown homicides so I assume Billy has kept his anger in check. On the other hand, I am willing to bet that if she gets ahold of a sturdy pool cue, Chuckles ain’t going down easy.

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