by Robert Adcox
Adolescence has always been filled with hard lessons such as how to deal with ennui. When bored, teens engage in a whole host of activities which, at my age now, would lead to a 911 call and shock paddles. Still, I remember the dullness of life which motivated me to do dumb things. For instance, the “road trip” taken by me and my good friend Bert. We had psyched ourselves into believing that our middle class lives were just so difficult, and we couldn’t be expected to deal with parental pressures like going to school and staying out of trouble.
Sufficiently primed, we slipped out one night in his mom’s ’68 Plymouth Fury. With more than half of a tank of gas, a box of ginger snaps, and about five dollars between us, we were out to get jobs somewhere in North Carolina and start our poor, unloved lives over. I think we had planned to connect with his older sister and stay with her while looking for lucrative jobs as dishwashers.
Now, I believe in God. I believe the Lord protects us long enough for us to glorify Him before calling us home. I’m grateful for that. Our misadventure was defined by several experiences culminating in what can only be thought of as an “opportunity” for divine protection. From the start, we did everything wrong. Shortly after crossing the North Carolina border, we decided that I’d relief-drive. That’s funny in itself, since ninety-five miles is hardly exhausting. Then we ran out of gas, which led to a literal comedy of errors. Foolishly, “gas money” had become pretzel and soda currency. Desperate to continue our quest, we began nosing around in sheds and barns for a can of gas. Tired, but somewhat frantic, we decided to look for the nearest town. We reasoned some kind soul would spare some change for two dumb kids who by now just wanted to go home. I think we had walked about half of a mile when I heard it, and alerted Bert to freeze.
An eerilie familiar, metallic click-click.
We were staring down two .357 Magnums connected to two VERY serious police officers. Apparently, they take gas cans seriously in Union County. In mere seconds their prey had been cuffed and taken to an awaiting squad car. The county’s finest, apparently, had suffered some serious budget issues; rather than feeding us at the jailhouse, we were instead driven to the nearest drive-in restaurant for hamburgers. Putting catsup on fries while handcuffed takes intense focus and determination, by the way. Sufficiently fed, we were much happier. That is, until we were taken through the “in-processing” process. Fingerprinting was, for me, difficult to master. It turned out “roll your finger” didn’t mean from thumbnail to palm. That was nothing compared to the incredulous looks I got when, posing for my mug shot, I gave my best glamour shot grin. Honestly, I was that naive. The officers seemed to be on the verge of crying -whether from laughter or frustration I’ll never know.
All told, it was a harrowing experience – though the hamburger was great. I can’t say the trip home was great, since mom was trying to decide whether to be angry or relieved. As usual, dad was stoic. I’m not sure what Bert’s trip home was like. I imagine it was much the same thing. “What were you thinking?” seemed to be my dad’s prevailing theme while mom settled on the classic, “We were so worried . . .” which ensures you won’t be getting into any mischief for a long, long time.
Five days maybe.
I learned that I was indeed up for a road trip . . . And that I couldn’t wait to get home.