Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My magical muffin

We've been roadtripping this past week, and I have to say that it has gone much more smoothly than last year's debacle.

Part of the difference has been that I am not driving with two small children and my grandmother. Part of the improved experience is that the bumper did not fall off the car at any time during the trip. But mostly, it's because we fired Glenda and her replacement, Sully. This came about when I switched cellphone plans this spring, and after much wringing of hands and surfing of web, I chose a plan that includes a navigation system. One that actually, you know, navigates. While Glenda's british lilt was lovely and Sully's mangled Bawstin accent was amusing, neither of them had any sense of direction whatsoever - crucially important in a GPS system, it turns out. So now I use my cellphone. The voice is boring, but the service is great - very accurate and easy to use.

It's been lovely.


Every so often I lose my signal, and sometimes this happens at the most inconvenient time. You would expect that the signal might fade in, say, a tunnel. But shortly after we got on the highway, it unexpectedly lost its signal. I had checked the directions, told Sami which exit to take, and put the phone down. I opened a box of muffins, and put them on my lap, forgetting that my phone was there. Suddenly, the gps announced "Signal has been lost".

"Whoops, sorry. My muffin must have blocked the signal." I said without thinking.

Sami choked on his iced coffee.

"My muffin is very distracting" I continued, raising one eyebrow and catching his eye. He smirked.

I moved the box. "Hard to get a signal down there" I continued, as I reached between my legs to find the phone.

"I get my signals loud and clear down there" Sami managed to get out in a strangled voice.

"Yeah, well, you're not a GPS. You know where to go. You don't need directions."

"Well, sometimes I get off too soon."

I glared at him and turned my attention to the road, and my muffin. NOT THAT MUFFIN.

I was quickly distracted. Just in front of us, a car was playing Tangled on their overhead tv screen - which was jumbo sized. Since Sami is a terrible tail-gater, I was able to watch quite a bit of it. So that was nice. I do like that movie.

And then he said "I need $2 for the toll."

Ah, the toll.

For the next two hours, we dutifully waited in various lines to pay for the right to drive on the highway - "legalized extortion" Sami calls it. He also refers to it as "highway robbery" - especially when we get closer to New York City, and the tolls skyrocket. We were $26 dollars in the hole by the time we got to the George Washington Bridge. I had one $10 bill left in my wallet. I pulled it out nervously - the last toll had been over $9 - and we had just paid that 5 minutes ago. As we approached the booth, we could make out the sign:

"TOLL: $8"

"WHAT!?" Sami was coming unglued. He rolled down the window and stuck out the last of our cash. But before the toll collector could take it, Sami leaned out the window.


She looked unfazed. Somehow, I have a feeling she has heard this before.

"Yessir. Eight dollars."

He shook his head and snatched the change when she held it out. "Gee, thanks" he said through gritted teeth as he pulled away. I prepared myself for a long and heated rant about the origin of tolls, and how they should be illegal now that the roads have been built and paid for, and how his tax dollars are being wasted ad nauseum. Luckily, his focus quickly shifted to the utter free-for-all that begins just past any toll booth. Drivers from all 8 toll lanes were gunning it for a spot in one of the three highway lanes few hundred yards ahead. It was bedlam. Cars were crossing 3, 4, even 7 lanes of traffic, jockeying for position. One woman came flying past us on the left and nearly clipped the front of the car as she merged in front of us. "Holy FUCK!" Sami shouted as he slammed on the brakes and swerved to avoid her. I was clutching the door handle and trying to keep my mouth shut so he could concentrate. "Did you see that shit?!" he was rolling up the window and simultaneously waving his hand in the air, gesturing towards her car. "Her side mirror is still folded in - she doesn't even have her side mirror open."

I was sympathetic. "Honey, do you really think she was going to use that mirror anyway? She probably hasn't even noticed it's folded in. If she had, she would have fixed it before getting on the interstate. And she would have seen us in her reariew mirror, anyway - if she had been looking. Which clearly, she wasn't."

"That's true" he muttered. "I guess mirrors aren't necessary if you don't appear to use any mirrors at all."

"I'm hungry" Lucy said from the backseat. It was a sore subject. The kids had refused all offers to stop for food earlier - and now we had passed all the good rest stops - My favorites were in Maryland, where both the Maryland House and the Chesapeake House have Popeyes, Burger King, Cinnabon AND Starbucks, and huge family bathrooms. It's like mecca for chrissakes. You can smell the Cinnabon from the highway. But once you get towards the top of the New Jersey turnpike, they rest stop food options turn to Sbarros and Arby's, with a Nathan's Hotdogs thrown in for good measure, and frankly I'd rather go hungry and pee on the side of the road than eat that shit.

So I handed her a muffin. NOT THAT KIND OF MUFFIN.

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