I’m on vacation from Chicago and visiting my girlfriend in Louisiana. Joy and I met in college. The plan is to drive to New Orleans the following weekend for the Jazz Festival. She let me borrow her car so I can pick up a few things for our trip. She says to watch out because the car can be a boy magnet.
I like my highways to be straight shots. Not so, here in Duck Dynasty country, where the speed limit changes several times as I drive from Sterlington to Monroe, where cars, SUVs, and gargantuan 18-wheelers speed past me carrying skinny poles of pine trees that hang off the back of the trucks. The speed limit changes from 65 to 55 near the turn-off to Frenchmen’s Bend, a housing development and health club. From there, it remains constant for a stretch of fields growing soy, corn, and rye, past the entrance to Black Bayou, a wildlife preserve and also the gateway to a small Sears store. Here the speed changes again to 50 mph as Hwy. 165 rolls by North Monroe’s commercial strip, home to gas stations, pizza and chicken nugget outlets.
Joy told me to watch speed signs so I don’t get a ticket.
It’s not so much the change in the speed limit or even the bumps along Hwy. 165 that annoy; it’s the road bullies. They hug my bumper, flash their headlights, especially small trucks whose headlights tunnel right into the back of my neck.
My choice is to stay in the “slow” lane where drivers are talking on cell phones. Or I can play the same ass-hole game, slow down and waving my bumper in the driver’s face until he gives up. Anyway you look at it, it’s a jerky ride. But today after I merged into the right lane to let some wild child pass, the same guy pulls back behind me. I merge right. He follows. The cat and mouse goes on for about two miles and I’m getting worried. So I pull into the nearest gas station. The guy drives by like he’s an extra from Thelma and Louise and waves. His idea of flirtation? I don’t want to know. Instead, I go inside for a cup of coffee. Through the window, I see him park. I was an extra in a horror film once because I knew how to scream loud.
“Pardon, M’am.” He’s wearing a t-shirt with one of those god-awful Smiley faces, a serial killer with a grin. I’m holding tight to my coffee, ready to throw it in his face. “Ever consider selling that ’65 Mustang?”
He’s about six feet with pointy cowboy boots, straw sandy hair. “You know we could’ve had an accident. Do you always force people off the road when you like a car?”
People are paying at the counter. He answers with one of those bashful Gomer Pyle looks. “Sorry, M’am. I got carried away.”
“What a loser.”
“Can I still look?”
A nervy loser also. “It’s not my car.”
He’s about to say something, but climbs into his truck with a tractor lawnmower loaded on the flatbed and backs up to the pump. “You can’t find those fastbacks anywhere,” he calls out the window. OMG. He smiles and waves. He really is cute.
Sometimes, I wish I had a little sister, but before I get back on 165, I finish my coffee thinking how Joy sure knows her cars.