Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but the trouble pot boiled over and spilled all over everything again. For one thing, my fridge went on the fritz last week. I'd tell my landlord, but I'm a little late in paying my rent, so I have to avoid him until my next payday. In the meantime, I'm keeping everything important in three coolers. I stopped by the carbonics plant where Ron works, and he slipped me a bucket of dry ice. So far, everything is kept as cold as it would be in a refrigerator. You have to be careful about getting the beer out of the bottom of the cooler, though, because you can burn yourself on the ice. I know it sounds wild, getting burned by ice, but trust me on this one: It hurts like a motherfucker.
The coolers are just an inconvenience compared to my cash-flow problem. I got suspended from my job driving people from the airport to the rental-car place and back. Before you get too worked up, remember that being suspended isn't the same as getting fired, so I'm gonna land on my feet. But the thing that got me in trouble wasn't even my fault.
See, one of my coworkers, this kid named Brian, said he'd come across one of my columns a few days earlier. I said that was awesome and asked him if he'd learned anything. He asked me if "hola" was anything like "holla." Well, I didn't know what the fuck he was talking about. He said that "holla" was a rap thing, and that I must have heard it before. I said there was no way in hell I'd heard it before, since rap is crap. "Hola" is "hola," and there's nothing rap about it.
That's when he stepped over the line. He said that classic rock was crap, and he asked me why I'd want to listen to a bunch of dead white guys. I was like, now hold on. Last time I checked, REO was alive and well and still bringing the rock. He said he had to admit that REO had one good song, but that they couldn't just play "Riding The Storm Out" over and over again. That's when things got ugly.
The long and short of it is that we got into a shoving match in front of some customers. Actually, the shoving match started in front of some customers, in the parking lot next to a shuttle bus full of them, but it ended behind the front desk of the car-rental place. We knocked over some luggage, freaked out a couple of old people, and made a 2-year-old cry. Believe me, it wasn't one of my finer moments. But, come on. I was fighting for that 2-year-old's right to listen to REO with pride one day. Brian and I each got a week's suspension with no pay. Brian's usually an all-right guy, but currently, he's on my shit list.
Anyway, since I have the time off, I figure I should go on a road trip. I don't know where yet, but I'd like to see some sights that I haven't seen before. Nothing exotic, just different. I need to shake things up a bit. But I have some rules I follow any time I take a road trip, so that it doesn't end in disaster.
First off, get a road-trip buddy. You need someone who has enough money to split gas costs, but isn't going to give you too much shit. If you can sucker someone into buying all the gas since it's your damn car, that's the best way to go. Now, Wes usually goes for that, but Ron doesn't. In fact, Ron always loses his wallet right before we leave and barely has enough cash in his pocket to buy his own beer and Arby's. Problem is, Ron is more fun on road trips, because he does the stupidest shit. I can overlook Ron's lack of money when he sticks a straw up his nose to blast spitballs at the ceiling of some truck-stop diner.
Second rule, your car's gotta be clean. I don't mean you can't still write in the dust on the hood—I mean clean on the inside. Your car is your home while you're on a road trip. The last thing you need is to roll over in your sleep and break open some ketchup packet you left on the seat. Pick up all your burger wrappers, empty antifreeze bottles, ATM receipts, parking tickets, and cracked tape cases, and throw them the hell away. While you're cleaning up, you might even find some cash to spend on the trip.
Third, stock up on provisions. Jerky's a must, because it doesn't go bad. Soda-wise, Coke is your best bet, but Dr. Pepper is okay, too. Water is free at any gas station, so don't waste your money on that. Chips are more trouble than they're worth, but if someone in your party insists on them, get a few bags, just to keep everyone happy. Most important of all: A couple extra cans of oil could save your life out there. And take an orange, for health.
Fourth, make a plan. You shouldn't go off without any idea where you're going. If you do that, you'll end up driving around for days without ever feeling like you got anywhere. Now, I haven't developed a plan for this trip just yet, but that's because I'm waiting to be inspired. I'm thinking that, when inspiration does hit, it might be Michigan.
Finally, have an emergency buddy in place in case something bad happens on the road. This requires long-term planning. You can't just call someone out of the blue when you're stranded, broke, and all the way up by Antigo without any gas. You need to have your ace in the hole well before you ever leave the city. Pick a friend who has a dependable car and isn't always getting his phone disconnected. This is probably some boring person you aren't all that close to, so do some legwork. Once you've got your ace picked out, call him up every once in a while and ask how he's doing, even if you couldn't care less. Stop by with a six-pack every month or so. You have to be on good terms with him, or he'll never drive 200 miles to pick your stranded ass up.
So, that's my road map to road trips. There are other things you can do if you're a puss, like you can get a tune-up or get a bunch of maps from your grandma, but part of the adventure is leaving some of it to chance. If you take too many precautions, how will you learn to think on your feet? How will you ever know what it's like to push a car a mile uphill to a service station if you never experience it? All right, it sucks. But you should live it at least once to know how bad it is.
Jim Anchower joined The Onion's editorial writing staff in 1993 after several distinguished years on The Come Back Inn dishwashing staff. He comments on community-affairs, automotive, and employment issues. He attended LaFollette High School in Madison, WI.