Shawn Lost in America: A Tribute to Where's Waldo
The drive from Washington D.C. to my apartment in Columbia, MO is approx: 990 miles which translates into 16 to 17 hours of driving based on speed, bathroom breaks, food breaks and how many times I decide to stop and observe the beautiful American landscape.
A week before I left D.C. I had my car checked because it had been overheating during drives to Baltimore. So, the shop had a look at it and made a few changes. I know, nothing too exciting so far.
Everything was going great on my drive until I approached a town about 90 miles from D.C. called Cumberland. That is where my car began to overheat and this journey of epic proportions began. First off, let me explain something about Cumberland, MD. Cumberland is sort of like Pleasantville in the movie with the same name except it's in color and the women don’t look nearly as hot as Reese Weatherspoon. In Cumberland, I had my car looked at a local gas station while I ate at Wendy’s (their new Wendy’s melt is delicious, I recommend it). By the way, there probably wasn’t a Wendy’s in Pleasantville but there should’ve been. Thinking my troubles were over, I continued on and got 20 miles when my car started to smoke like a NYC waitress on her lunch break (insert laugh track here).
I pulled to the side of the road and noticed green radiator fluid was splashed all over my car. The engine had burnt out, and the worst part was I had no idea where I was. In fact, I didn’t even know what state I was in.
Luckily, before I had left for college my Mom had given me her AAA card and said, “Shawn, you will need this one day.” Mom’s are always right. I gave the company a call and found out I was located in Maryland and that a tow-truck would pick me up in 30 minutes. So there I sat on the side of interstate 68, which among other things consisted of large beetle-like butterflies, rattle snakeskin’s, rude passerby’s and afternoon heat. The only thing keeping me from running into the highway and getting struck by a vehicle to prematurely end my life was listening to the audiobook version of Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs on my ipod.
After three and a half hours (yes that was 3 and half hours, no typo) of waiting for the tow truck to pick me and my dilapidated car up, they finally came. I don’t want to talk too much about what those three and half hours consisted of because I would just assume forget about it and never bring it up again.
The tow-truck guy was named Eric. He had the largest Adam’s apple I had ever seen.
Words don’t do this thing justice. It was as if a bee was stuck in his throat and consistently stinging him to inflate this thing. Anyway, Eric was so skinny he looked malnourished, smoked Marlboro reds, was wearing a T-shirt that had an American Flag and bald eagle on it, talked with a back-woods southern accent, and wore a trucker hat (since he was an actual trucker this means he wasn’t going for the KFed-Britney Spears look.)
Eric told me I had two options. Option 1 was to backtrack to Cumberland, MD and wait for them to look at my car while option 2 was to head 30 miles to Morgantown,VA. Going to Morgantown was the logical choice since it was in the direction I was going in. So, Eric loaded up my car lit up a cigarette and we were off. On the way, Eric told me about his band, which he said, “sounds like Metallica, but in the early years man.”
Eventually we reached Morganstown, home of the University of West Virginia, basketball legend Jerry West, and a lot of students who like to burn couches (see new Cingular commercial to see what I mean.) We went to the Honda dealership, but since it took so long for the towing service to find me it was now 6 p.m. and the service mechanics were gone. The only person at the dealership, in fact, was J.B.. J.B. is a salesman, maybe in his 40’s or 50’s, uses a strong scented hand-lotion and listens to modern pop music such as Taylor Hicks and every other musician that makes my ears bleed.
J.B. offered to give me a ride to find a hotel in his burnt orange Honda Element. Don’t you think if you were a salesman at a Honda dealership and could have your choice of vehicle you would chose something better than an Element? On the way to finding a hotel, he told me about how he used to be in law enforcement until some amateur photographer took a picture of a buddy of his throwing cash and drugs into his patrol car one evening. To say the least, I thought this was a weird thing to say to a stranger, but then again it was West Virginia and J.B. was the type of guy who loved to tell stories, and he told me loads of them. In a span of 20 minutes, J.B. told me his life. How he went to WVU during the “crazy hippie years”, how one of his roommates had a girlfriend who was a hooker and the money she made paid for their parties, how he became the first man to teach woman’s studies at WVU, how he has two adopted kids and one is “flamboyant” and gets weird looks outside of Morganstown, and how his team of salesman each made over 75K last year and spend their Sunday’s out on the lake drinking beer. He asked if I wanted to go. I firmly declined.
Finally, after getting severely tired of J.B.’s stories and his music, I checked in at a room at the Econo Lodge for two nights since the dealership was closed on Sunday. By the way, I should mention that the receptionist at the EL had a mustache thicker than mine, and that they still used keys, not card keys. This means anyone could make a copy of the key to come into my room and steal all of my shit or kill me. This probably was not the best place to stay, but like I said it was this or J.B. and I chose the EL.
I am hoping my car will be fixed by tomorrow and I can continue my trip back to CMO. But something tells me this epic journey has just begun and that this won’t be the last blog entry of Shawn Lost in America. Until next time, keep fighting the good fight.