(Apologies to Bob Seger, Jimi Hendrix, and the Stones)
Before you read any further, I’d like to note that my travelling companions are (usually) mature and admirable people. Please don’t judge them harshly. You’d be a basket case, too, if you had to spend fourteen hours in a car with me.
A couple of times a year, I drive from Calgary, Alberta to just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba. The trip is about 800 miles one way (1,200 kilometres). When I’m driving by myself, I do it in about twelve hours. If I have company in the car, it takes closer to fourteen.
The mind does frightening things when it’s cooped up in a car for that long. When I’m on my own, I beat my brain into submission with loud music.
When there are other people in the car, things get… strange.
I frequently drive with my sister and a friend whom I’ll identify only as Swamp Butt, in order to protect the guilty. Since she can’t retaliate without revealing her true identity, I’ll also disclose her nickname for me: “TB”, short for “Tiny Bladder”.
Three grown women in a car for fourteen hours. What a wonderful opportunity for deep discussion, bonding, and meaningful dialogue.
There’s something about the trip that makes us revert to the mental age of ten. Some examples:
When you drive directly into the sunrise, the angle of the light reveals the fact that we all spit when we talk. And not just on plosive consonants. It’s a constant, fine spray of spittle. There’s no way to prevent it. Sorry, but it’s true.
Being the refined and sophisticated person that I am, I pointed this out within seconds of discovering it. My sister heaved a huge sigh of relief. “I thought it was just me,” she admitted. “I’ve been trying to stop doing it for miles.” She then proceeded to demonstrate various facial contortions designed to reduce the spray. Much merriment (and aerosolized spit) ensued.
Later in the day, we passed the umpteenth pasture with cattle dotted across its expanse. I glanced over and said, “Black cows…” Fateful pause. “…Look BETTER in the SHADE.” At which point all three of us did the head bob as we chanted the instrumental part: “NAH-nah-nah-nah-NAH-nah-nah-NAH!” Swamp Butt followed up with the solo from the back seat, “Dee-DEE-dee!”
I’ve never really liked Gino Vanelli’s music, or the song “Black Cars”. To me, the 80’s were a musical wasteland, mercifully relieved by a few outstanding artists like Bob Seger. But the point is, the “Black Cows” segment was repeated over and over, apparently getting funnier each time. It’s now a tradition. Such is the hideous danger of long-distance driving.
Eventually, the brain becomes so sodden with fatigue that it’s not actually necessary to have a stimulus for mirth. We’ve dissolved in helpless giggles while standing in line at Subway. Not talking. Not even looking at each other. The mere words, “I’ve been in the car too long…” are enough to make us weep with laughter.
Oh, and Swamp Butt? She snorts when she laughs. Not every time. The snort is reserved for special occasions. But when it finally erupts in all its raucous glory, pandemonium ensues. Hysterical, helpless hilarity. We haven’t actually had to pull over yet, but it’s been close a few times.
And then there’s the reason for Swamp Butt’s nickname. Farts become excruciatingly (and I mean the word in all its connotations) funny after too many hours in the car. They’re also pretty much unavoidable. Medical science tells us that humans pass gas 15 – 25 times a day*.
Well, guess what? Fourteen hours is over half a day. Times three people. Equals somewhere between 26 and 44 farts in the car (‘cause I’m a geek and it’s math.)
Here’s another thing you need to know. Canola smells like cabbage farts. (Honest. Those pretty yellow fields? When it’s cut, it reeks.) And there are a lot of canola fields between here and Manitoba. So the next time you let one slip while driving, just nod wisely at your passengers and murmur, “Canola”. You can thank me now. Note: This may be less convincing in the wintertime.
Anyway, on our last trip, Swamp Butt seemed to spot a lot more canola fields than there actually were. And just as we drove into the parking lot in Brandon to drop her off, she cracked off another one.
Seconds before she got out of the car.
We all tumbled out, laughing, shrieking and choking. I’d like to say that we drew some attention, but we didn’t. Guess folks in Brandon are used to that sort of thing.
We have not yet devolved to burping contests (well, usually not), armpit noises, or mooning other drivers. We’re much too mature for that. I hope. Please, God, let me be right about that.
What’s your pinnacle of silliness while long-distance driving?
*Who gets paid to do these studies? There’s one for the ol’ resume: “Undertook in-depth research of human gaseous emissions.”