One thing about rednecks is they think they’re invincible. (The old, “Hold my beer, watch this,” comes to mind, but that’s not what I mean today—that’s a whole other story.) I’m talking about the constant urge to multitask while driving. Well, okay, so that’s probably a 21st Century human thing, but Jeff takes it to a new art form. From our first date, I could’ve told you he likes to talk on the phone and drive. He took more than three calls in a five-mile drive.
Whenever we leave the state, I try to drive at least the first 100 miles to ensure he gets all his calls out of his system and then falls asleep. (Crap, now he’ll know!) That way, I know I won’t be hitting the imaginary passenger-side brake or flicking my head to the side to urge him to change lanes or turn when he’s in mid-conversation. If I’m driving, I know he won’t be looking up phone numbers, writing notes, taking drinks of his soda, hitting the radio or gesturing if he doesn’t like the caller, all while driving on the interstate. And he won’t be eating at the wheel either.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat a sandwich or a few fries at the wheel. I’m sure we all do when the need arises. But I at least try to keep the meal simple and driver-friendly. No tacos, two-handed sloppy burgers or anything requiring a utensil. And no salads.
Yes, Jeff will try to eat healthy by eating a salad occasionally. Unfortunately, he’ll try to devour it while steering with his knee and navigating to his next appointment. “Honey, it’s not so healthy when you have an accident because you’re eating a salad.” Eating greens may keep you around longer, unless you have a fender bender while trying to fork a tomato. Yes, it has happened.
He is talented. I’ll give him that. Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? “Look Ma, no hands!” That’s what I think drives Jeff—and others, myself included–to drive and multitask like this. He’s determined to prove he can do it. That, and it’s the old, “but I can make good time” argument. You wouldn’t think that’d make sense here. The standard view of a redneck would be someone who moves at a slower pace through life. Jeff has never moved slowly. Perhaps that’s why I thought he was in a closet so long? He moves too fast. Add that to eating at the wheel, and it doesn’t bode well.
The day we decided to take a road trip to Hannibal comes to mind. It was a cool fall morning, and I’d taken the day off work so we could spend some quality time together. I downed a bowl of cereal and grabbed a bag of snacks and jackets while Jeff sent his crews off to work that morning. Hannibal is a two-hour drive from our home. We planned to take a leisurely drive, visit relatives and check out a tourist site or two before returning home that day. But, as usual, we left the house later than we planned.
Now, I’ve learned over 17 years that Jeff always has at least three stops to make on our way out of town. He’ll go by the gas station, the bank, or whatever before we ever leave St. Louis. And he invariably stops for something to eat. That morning, he was more grumpy than usual and short with me. He was hungry. I should’ve known and prepared—I now would bring him breakfast. I get a little testy when my stomach growls too, but Jeff? Well, you know. I know you know.
We pulled into the McDonald’s drive-thru at 10:40am, hoping he could get a breakfast sandwich. “Sorry sir, we stop serving that at 10:30,” said the box.
“Grrr…,” I heard from the left side of the truck. “Where else can I get breakfast? I need breakfast!”
“It’s a little late, so I’m not sure. You don’t want anything else?”
“No! I need breakfast.”
We drove another mile and saw a Sonic sign and decided to try that. Jeff pulled the truck into the drive-thru lane and asked again about breakfast. “We’re sorry sir….blah, blah,” we heard. I asked him, “You just need something. Is there anything else you’d like?”
He leaned over and said, “Ok, give me a chili dog and a large soda, and a cup of coffee” and he pulled around to the car-hop delivery spot. The wait seemed longer, only because he wasn’t happy. At this point, I was thinking, “How is he going to eat that and drive?” A girl brought out a soda, my coffee and a bag and took his money. He drove away, digging in the bag as he turned out onto the road. He handed me the coffee and the tray with the chili dog.
“Damn, there’s no fork in here!” He did a 180 (yes he can do them on land handily as well) and went back around the Sonic lot, past the order box and back to the delivery door. “Hey!” he yelled out the window and waved. Someone saw him and came out with a quizzical look. “Can I get a fork or something please?!”
With a spork (you know, the spoon thing with short tines) in hand, we finally set off for our road trip. “Are you going to pull over and eat that?” I asked hopefully. (OK, it was sarcastically, but I’m the one writing the story here.) Jeff grumbled as he pulled into another lane and stopped at a light. He took the chili dog tray from me and tore the paper from it.
He held the steering wheel with his knee and stabbed the thing with the spork as if it were a fish ready to flop back into the water from the bank. He thought he was about to take a big spork-ful into his mouth. You could see the gleam in his eye, but the dog wasn’t cooperating. Remember readers, the chili dogs at Sonic that early in the day aren’t usually hot and quite ready to eat. In fact this one was a little tough yet. Instead of cutting apart at the spot where it was stabbed, it stayed intact. When Jeff pulled back on the utensil, it instead flung pieces of chili and chili-soaked bun all over the steering wheel, the dash, the windshield and his lap. What could I do? I spit out my mouthful of coffee, laughing.
He sat there while the light turned green, with this half-naked hot dog hanging from half a bun, covered with chili and bobbing up and down obscenely. I pointed and laughed some more, only harder. He cursed under his breath, rolled down the window and chucked the whole thing outside into the ditch. “Hey! That’s littering,” I scolded. “Who cares, the damn birds will eat it,” Jeff growled. (Really, he growled.) He took the one napkin they gave him and tried to wipe the chili off the wheel. I was near tears at this point. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Jeff turned the radio up to try to drown out my laughing. I was snorting and crying, I was laughing so hard. He glowered at me and stared ahead. When I’d been laughing five more minutes without stopping, I could see the sides of his mouth starting to crack. He was trying not to smile as he drove down the highway. I giggled. I wiped my eyes. I laughed and chuckled.
Finally, he cracked, but he didn’t want me to think that he thought it was funny too. As he started to fully grin, he looked sideways at me and said quietly as he chuckled himself, “bitch.”