We were supposed to leave at nine in the morning. I say supposed to because I could not, for the life of me, get out of bed. I thought about getting up, I swear I did, but Sarah, my wife, says that I grumbled something, rolled over and went back to sleep. That sounds about right for me.
We finally got going at around 11, but I was afraid of Sarah. Normally when I am running late, I get the stink eye, but today, she was all smiles. When I asked her about her demeanor, she smiled back, “I’m on holiday.” Crazy Brits.
When we got going, the car complained at us. Oil level low and airbag needs service. Nothing makes a husband panic more than seeing caution lights at the very beginning of a road trip. Fortunately, in this case, I knew that the airbag complaint was a fault, something wrong with the sensor. The oil announcement, though, bothered me. I had just checked the oil and it was fine. Sarah glanced over at me as if to ask what we were going to do. I did what all husbands have likely done at some point, I said that the car was a liar and we are pressing on.
We stopped at a gas station, not far from the house, to top up the gas and check the tire pressure. Gas was easy, but getting over to the tire pressure machine was like maneuvering through a demolition derby. Cars darted back and forth with no regard for the arrows and lines painted on the ground, which apparently were merely suggestions for the experienced drivers.
As I checked the tire pressure, and managed to get far dirtier than I thought I would, Sarah had wandered off into the gas station. When she emerged, she came bearing gifts of soft drinks and ice cream cones. As we stood there eating our celebratory ice cream, we started to get glared at by another gas station customer. Not a passing glance, but a full on stink eye. Apparently he too wanted to check his tire pressure. Time to move, I announced to Sarah.
As we got on, there are a few things I noticed about Mississippi drivers. Turn signals are entirely optional. Speed limit signs are about 10 miles per hour less than what is really being driven, and even the state troopers were passing us as we drove five miles over the speed limit. When you combine the two observations, you have drivers who come, seemingly, out of nowhere and sit inches from your bumper, and if you do not get out of their way fast enough, they are going to go around.
We had traveled a fair way through Alabama, the short panhandle, when Sarah started talking about food and the bathroom. We were in a fairly isolated area, and I asked her to wait until the Florida Welcome Center. She agreed, and the state line was only five miles ahead, so no major task. We passed the state line, but no welcome center in sight. Sarah was doing “the dance” in the seat next to me, which served as warning that I might be forced to pull over, something that I would regret for the rest of the trip.
We finally found the welcome center, and it was gorgeous. The Interstate-10 Florida Welcome Center is a sprawling estate type area, with a fairly new facility. The restrooms were clean, the vending machines were cool pieces of technology…and I got some free orange juice. What do you expect from the Sunshine State?
A little further up the road, at the Interstate 10 junction with Highway 281, we stopped at a local Subway restaurant in a gas station. It was a standard set up, nothing special. We set up to eat our lunch in the store and watch the world pass by around us. It was then that we saw the scariest thing.
A middle aged man pulled up his silver Volkswagen and promptly got out. He was carrying a brown paper bag in one hand, which had the rough shape of a bottle. Sarah nudged me as he dropped it in the wastebasket outside of the shop. He then proceeded directly to the glass case holding the beer, picked out a bottle and strolled over to the register. He paid his tab, and attendant placed the bottle in a brown paper bag. The man then walked out of the store, brown bag in hand, and got back into his car. Just before pulling away from the parking spot, he took a long pull from the bottle. As an added bonus, he was going the same way we were.