As my husband and I careen across America, down highways and byways, I learn more in one road trip than I do in an entire year of family dinners. Having him behind the wheel is like having a window to his soul.
He freely monologues in stream of consciousness: "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? And if it can't chuck wood, why is it called a woodchuck? What does it chuck? You should write a column answering questions like that. Can you answer those questions?"
It doesn't matter if I can or can't. His mouth speeds faster than our hurtling auto, and he carries on, saying, with unwarranted irritation, "I'll have to be dead before you'll be a little old lady driving a Cadillac." No old ladies are anywhere around. They'd be hard pressed to even keep up.
"Is your grudge against the sweet old ladies or the Cadillacs?" I ask.
"They just irritate me, in there with their white hair all done-up." He takes his hands off the wheel to make prissing motions all around his head. "And that red rouge stuff on their cheeks. And they're all haughty and driving as slow as they can, just steering while their cars idle."
Without taking a breath he vehemently adds, "It's almost as bad as a 24-year-old girl with a 5-carat rock on her left ring finger."
I'm no longer in danger of being one of those over his dead body, I think with a sigh. Before I can analyze his aversion to little old ladies in Cadillacs, he quickly shifts gears, "I can't explain it, but Montgomery (as in Alabama) doesn't sit well with me. There's nothing sexy about it."
I patiently wait for this line of thought to ramble somewhere.
"Birmingham has terrain, art, interest," he continues. "But Montgomery is just blah. Doesn't do anything for me," he shrugs.
Then his hands are off the steering wheel again and his fingers are doing this weird, light scratching on his belly while his other fingers reach out toward me.
Even though the road is smooth, his head bobs like we're bouncing over a washboard. By the way his eyes close and his chin drops down to his chest, I suspect a severe case of road hypnosis.
As we veer off toward the ditch, I try to break his trance, "Watch the road!"
"I am," he mumbles.
Over his out-of-tune serenade -- "and this free-ee-ee bird you cannot cha-a-a-a-a-ange" -- I try to reason, "You're driving us into the ditch. Personally, I don't want to get blamed for ruining a hundred thousand people's Saturday by being the first car in a pileup on I-85."
"These guys really ripped on guitars," he answers, swerving back into the lane.
Without warning, the mood changes.
"Look at this guy! He took forever to pass me, now he's in front of me going slow. I just want to go my own speed." This is a frequent theme of his driving diatribes. "I'm going to have to pass him again, and I bet he speeds up when I get next to him."
"Don't take it personally," I counsel. "You reminded him of the speed he means to go. It happens to me all the time. I get distracted and slow down until someone breezes by, reminding me of the speed I mean to drive."
My perceived betrayal agitates him. "You wouldn't let me pass either? You'd speed up?"
A window to my soul briefly opens. "Yes."
And we silently go bumping down the highways and byways, his soul's window shuttered, until he thinks of woodchucks again.
Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny . She lives in Thomson. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.