When Your Roadtrip is not Hecka Awesome

Do you want us all to die?

My finger had been under this line in the book in front of me for the past hour and a half. For a week, I had been looking forward to some valuable time away from school to enjoy some personal reading from a book that had captivated me from the opening pages. *

Do you want us all to die?

My mind wondered as I attempted to proceed to the next words on the pages. My eyes darted up as they had so frequently during the car ride I was currently in. The long, flat landscape of Texas loomed in front of me as the road passed beneath. Ironically, the line of words in the book are precisely what I wanted to yell at our driver sitting next to me. A quick glance back to the other wide-eyed and white-knuckled passengers tells me that they are thinking the same thing, which is a coincidence since none of them have read my book. I stare forward again.

Do you want us all to die?

My mind wonders again. I thought back to the start of the day. How had such a well-intentioned day to do service deteriorated into a state of constant fear for our lives? It all started with a bad choice at 6 A.M. **

In light of Hurricane Harvey, relief efforts were quickly underway by a number of organizations, including the LDS church in Texas and the surrounding states. On September 9th, I was a team leader over seven other individuals going to the Gulf Coast to assist in cleanup. We were a small part of the church’s larger effort of volunteers assisting. In San Antonio, there were over 1000 people going down that day.

Six members of my team I already knew. But the seventh, who I shall refer to as Bobcat, I knew not. As we prepared to embark with our assignments, Bobcat spoke up, and said he had a suburban which could seat us all. In an effort to save gas and create unity (really?), but not really knowing this fellow, I made that fateful decision which would weigh on me from that day forward, and agreed to the suburban.

Since the rest of the group knew each other already, they stuck together…in the back of the car. Leaving the passenger seat open. I climbed in, thinking it as an opportunity to briefly get to know Bobcat, then absorb myself in the pages of the novel I was bringing with me.

I asked the basic questions for the first 30 minutes of the drive: general upbringing, what his life story was, and whether he thought pineapple belonged on pizza or not***. It was a decent enough conversation, although I had to tell him a few times to keep his eyes on the road as he drifted out the lane a few times and took some corners a bit quickly. When I considered my job finished, I decided to wind the conversation down and told him I’d like to start reading my book and opened it up to the earmarked page. I found my spot:

Do you want us all to die?

“So…..”

Bobcat had spoken. I glanced up.

“What kind of cars do you like?”

I guess he wasn’t ready for the conversation to end. I responded with Toyotas, but I’d take a Subaru if a Toyota wasn’t available, and went back to my book.

Do you want us all to die?

“So….”

I paused again. Waiting for it.

“What kind of shows do you like?

Only somewhat chagrined, I listed off a few of my favorites: Parks and Rec, Arrested Development, Master of None, and the first two seasons of Law and Order: SVU (because who has time to watch all 18 seasons). He hadn’t seen any of them. So I asked about some of his favorites. His first response was Power Rangers. Thinking he must have TV confused with movies, I told him I hadn’t seen the film yet. Neither had he. Realization dawned on me that he must mean the Saturday morning Power Rangers I was forbidden to watch as a child.

I listened with my mouth slightly ajar as this twenty-something man proceeded to tell me about the different Power Rangers series on TV. Did you know there are 20 different themed rangers? Jungle Fury, Dino Thunder, Ninja Storm, Time Force, Wild Force, in Space, Megaforce, SUPER Megaforce, etc. I just listed those off the top of my mind. I shouldn’t have remembered all those, but for some reason they’ve been ingrained. And why does each season sound like the year they jumped the shark?

I have absolutely nothing to add to this conversation so I just keep quiet and nod. Like when someone speaks to you in a foreign language (or an organic chemistry class) and you can’t understand but you still nod your head anyways like you do.

Without skipping a beat, Bobcat transitions into Web series’ he watches such as PragerU, Stephen Crowder, and Fox News. Getting a better idea of who this guy is, I silently make a bet with myself and ask if his favorite talk show host is Sean Hannity. I’m wrong. It’s Rush Limbaugh (I owe myself $10 now). Before I can stop it, the Trump-Train toots its horn and is full steam ahead now. Bobcat begins listing off Trump’s accomplishments, particularly that Trump visited Houston quicker than it took President Obama to visit New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (which happened in 2005…so you tell me what’s wrong with that statement).

At this point, morning traffic fills the roads and rather than slowing down, Bobcat is maintaining a constant 85 mph, weaving in and out of lanes and unknowingly (knowingly?) cutting off cars. I quickly spot a McDonalds 20 miles away on my GPS and signal a break. Although disagreeing with everything political being said, I say nothing since my life is in the hands of the driver. I don’t want him to get any ideas that he can MAGA by crashing the car and ridding the world of a non-supporter.

The golden arches looming ahead of me bring an overwhelming sense of joy, such that a McDonalds has never brought me before. As I quickly exit the car, I burst through the doors, order a McMuffin, and soon remember why my McDonalds never brings me any lasting joy. As I return apprehensively to the car, I realize to my dismay that once again, the front seat is mine.

Do you want us all to die?

I quickly realize that my silence may be taken as an interpretation for Bobcat to continue his monologue. I abruptly turn around and interject myself into the conversations occurring behind me. For 30 minutes, a kinked back and strained neck provides me with a normal interaction. A small price to pay until we arrive at the small town of Ingleside. As we pull up to the house we’ll be helping, the car doors burst open before the car comes to a stop. The people in back clamber out and away from the car. Safe for now.

If only we knew what the rest of the day held in store.

Part II coming soon involving mold, cockroaches, pants, and Subway sandwiches

*Red Rising – The Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game meets Game of Thrones

** Actually, the first bad choice was deciding to wake up at 5:30 A.M. on a Saturday

**Pineapple should never go on pizza

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