If there is one great American rite of passage, it is the road trip. Haphazardly shoving people and belongings into a car and debauching ourselves across state lines is about as American as apple pie baked by underpaid immigrant laborers.
There is nothing quite like venturing a great distance with only a youthful exuberance and sense of adventure (and a Google Maps printout). Of course, the reason road trips are so exciting is because so much can go wrong-and something always does.
In these crises, however, character is made and we find out what sort of stuff we are made of. It is where beards are grown, boys become men, men become double men and girls become panicky bunches of no-help-at-all.
One such situation occurred while my recent trip was in its early stages: Somewhere in Georgia, one of the tires suffered a fatal puncture wound. Because I was the only person in the car who had ever changed a tire before, I was appointed the savior of the group. We pulled into the parking lot of a KFC, where our hissing tire attracted the attention of a youth group.
I wouldn't have paid it any mind, if only it didn't start to provide the least effective roadside assistance of all time.
I had to pull all the luggage out of the trunk to get to the spare, and instead of helping, the leader of the group provided commentary on our luggage and our situation:
"You guys have a lot of stuff. Where ya headed? What are you guys gonna be doing there? Oh, that's a first aid kit, in case anyone gets hurt and needs first aid. That's an emergency blanket, in case you get lost and need a blanket. You guys look like artists."
What's your name? David? That's a strong name. A strong...Bible name." This was annoying enough without the flat tire, the impossible-to-figure-out spare tire, and knowing how much longer this already lengthy trip was becoming. But considering what was going on, I began thinking to myself: "If I hit this guy with a tire iron, would he turn the other cheek?"
It took all the patience I could muster to keep my cool around this guy, knowing he would eventually have to take this bus full of kids back to wherever they came from.
I was right, and soon, as quickly as I was swarmed by them, they dispersed. Only the leader was still around me, smiling and offering his hand. "Don't forget, David, Jesus loves you." It was at this point that I succumbed to temptation and responded: "Great! Will he help me change my tire?"
I don't know how he responded, because I stuck my fingers in my ears and began singing loudly until he walked off.
After that ordeal, fixing the tire was a snap. Soon, though, another crisis arose. The KFC we were at ran out of Double Downs.
To be continued...(never).