Yesterday was a long day behind the wheel.
I drove my teenage daughter to her YMCA camp just across the North Carolina border with Georgia. She’s gone there for four years, and this year, she’s an Advanced Leadership Candidate, part of the strata of counselors they train and employ there. Suffice to say, she was very excited about it although she went through the natural strata of self-doubt, anxiety and mania on the trip in. “What is going to be expected of me there?” she asked several times. I suggested that the higher-ups would be able to give her the directions they expected her to take; people would indeed like her a lot, even people she’d never have met before yesterday.
When I left her at her sleeping quarters, I was already chopped liver and slunk down the camp road, happy to see her in her element.
I found out, right before we got to camp, that I had to drive my daughter’s best friend’s camp trunk to our friends in Alpharetta since I could not leave it there with the camper. That’s another two hour drive in either direction that I hadn’t counted on, so I had my wife do the incredibly 21st Century task of MapQuesting the directions and sending them straight to my cell phone.
MapQuest and its assorted competitors are a gamble for folks like me who have trouble with a regular oversize atlas in the driver’s seat. As close as you can get the directions, there are still some grey areas, like state road numbering, that leave a lot to be desired, I was to find out at the end of my day.
My directions to Alpharetta fizzed and sputtered at one point when the alleged ‘follow Georgia 20’ entries no longer had any correspondence to the actual road I was on. My air conditioning was the only cool thing in the car after a while, so I called the folks who were taking the trunk to camp; they said to come on to Roswell where they were. The husband in the couple talked me in, a jibbering, fuming wreck of a mind dealing with having made the four-hour extension into more like six.
After I dropped the bounty off, they gave me directions and encouragement toward I-85 North, the glory road to get me to my recording session in Moravian Falls, NC. I was hoping that I’d be there Sunday night, to hang out and talk about the songs we were intending to record, but that vanished with the news about Alpharetta. At the late point I started heading up there, I was clinging to a thread that I’d be there a little after midnight.
Outside of Greenville, I stopped at a McDonalds for a to-go dinner. It looked sketchy there, for some reason I can’t be cerain of. Maybe it was the guy chain-smoking by the truck stop door who looked to be eyeing my car. I would hate to lose the (borrowed) bass or my computer, so I nervously swung my head around the corner a couple times between when my order was placed and when it arrived.
Got to the car, decided to put a quart of oil in it to keep the warning light from flashing like a slow strobe at me (it didn’t), then on my way.
I pulled up to the exit of the parking lot, and I drove out onto the frontage road. Suddenly I heard a screech, and I sped up to the stop sign to try to get out of the car’s way.
I had just phoned my wife when I heard a loud smack on my passenger side. The drive I’d apparently cut off had jumped out of his car, and he grabbed the car door and flung it open.
“DIDN’T YOU SEE THE MOTHERFUCKIN’ RED LIGHT YOU RAN BACK THERE, MOTHERFUCKER??” he bellowed at me. He was a large black man whose bulk, wrapped in a Raiders’ football jersey, took up the entire door opening.
I calmly tried to tell him, no, I hadn’t seen it, and that I was incredibly sorry. I started to say something about it being a long day when he cut me off.
“I OUGHTA PUNCH YOU IN THE MOTHERFUCKIN’ HEAD!!”
And he did.
He reached over the passenger seat and connected with my right cheek. I was too stunned, and my wife heard the whole incident over the cell phone.
As soon as he slammed my door and went back to his own car, I hauled ass back onto 85, resuming my conversation with my wife. “I heard the noise and I thought you’d been shot,” she told me. I assured her that, other than my smarting face, I was fine and that I was probably in the wrong and... I stopped short of saying that I deserved it.
Four hours later and a few more cups of coffee and Diet Pepsi, I woozily weaved around the back roads of Alexander County in rural North Carolina, trying in vain to find the dirt road that lead to the studio house. My phone was sapped from MapQuesting any landmark I could find, mostly Baptist churches whose names are shared throughout the entire NC Baptist community. It was nearing 3:30 in the morning and I got a surprise phone call from my compatriots at the house, concerned that I might be lost. How clever of them to figure that out, and how fortunate they were up so late.
FInally got there a little later, right around four. I’d already told them about the road rage incident, so that was old news by then.
The artist with whom we are recording promised me he would not punch me in the head if I played notes he didn’t like, so I fell to sleep in the back of the van and slept a dreamless sleep.