After many summer vacations spent behind the wheel driving from here to there to over yonder and back again, I’ve had time to overthink a thing or two.
The cell phone catch-22 was one of them. When the states first began passing laws prohibiting the use of cell phones, signs with cell phone numbers, like *511 to get traffic information or *792 to report aggressive drivers also began cropping up.
After being cut-off by a swerving, lead-footed crazy person, my first thought was, "Ha! I’ll just call *792 and report Mr. Aggressive Driver." But then I saw a sign that informed drivers of the $200 penalty for talking on a cell phone while driving. "How do you report Mr. Aggressive Driver without breaking the law?" I screamed out in frustration at no one in particular.
After my rant, I began to ponder the conundrum. At first I thought it was entirely possible that turning in the guy that was about to cause a 30-car pile up and checking the traffic conditions were the exceptions to the cell phone ban.
Then I considered the state of the economy. Cynical Micki, who is typically conjured up by stress, decided the directive signs were posted to get drivers to break the cell phone law. Considering the number of aggressive drivers on our interstates, lots of $200 fines would certainly plump up the state coffers.
To this day I am amused at the states that patrol highways with planes. There are several states that post signs about how they monitor speed and other highway happenings with aircraft. Personally, I have yet to see a plane swoop down from the sky and pull a speeding motorist. Yes, I know the pilots communicate with officers in patrol cars who then enforce driving laws. But that’s not what I imagined when I read the signs.
It would be more exciting if a plane would approach a speeding car from behind. The driver, upon seeing the plane in his rearview mirror, would have to pull over. It would be impossible for a car to outrun a plane. A helicopter would be even better. It could simply land on the roof of the speeding vehicle and stop it.
Driving through the Midwest is always a challenge. But after experiencing what seemed like billions of miles of flat, corn-lined highways, I was able to come up with a few suggestions for our heartland’s corn farmers.
Purple. Wouldn’t purple be a nice color for a barn? Or how about sky blue or mauve? Do all the barns HAVE to be red or white? Are those the only colors used to manufacture barn paint?
I would also like to see scarecrows near the highway; but not the boring, typical scarecrows. Farmers need to dress up our nation’s cornfields with scarecrow celebrity look-a-likes or movie scenes reconstructed with scarecrows.
Visiting the Midwest is wonderful, but driving through it has the same effect on me as taking sleeping pills with warm milk.
After thousands of road trips, I’ve developed my own theory about crop circles. I do not believe visitors from other galaxies created them. Crop circles were, in my opinion, created by drivers who went insane after driving for days with nothing to look at but stalks of corn and an occasional red or white barn. The insane drivers stop their cars, jump into the fields and run around screaming, "I’ve GOT to be close to a CITY! Where’s the CITY? ARE WE THERE YET?"
My children have been affected by what has amounted to years strapped to the back seat. They memorized all the lyrics to all my favorite 80s driving tunes. They know all the typical road-trip family games. They also know not to ask me to stop for food or a bathroom break unless they have a visual on the restaurants and gas stations.
The rest stop rule was adopted the year we made the same mistake twice. On a particularly long trip, we made the mistake of going by the information signs near the exit. After following additional signs for five miles and still not finding a restaurant or gas station, we doubled back to the highway.
Ten miles down the road I trusted the directional signs again. I refused to believe there could possibly be two exits boasting venues that were more than a mile off the beaten path. After another five-mile detour during which we could not find a place to eat or purchase fuel, I became a believer.
I also banned our family from ever eating or buying gas in that state. In addition, it is entirely possible I am directly responsible for at least one crop circle. My children have never confirmed or denied whether I lost my sanity during that especially challenging road trip.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.