this morning i took my car to the shop for an oil change and a pre-roadtrip once-over. the mechanic told me it might take a day or two depending on how much they needed to fix, so i had them call a rental car place to come pick me up. the lady who came to get me was quite late, so the small talk didn’t commence until after the apologies.
“i’m so sorry i’m late,” she said. “they didn’t tell me i was supposed to come here until i was already doing something else, and then they said, ‘aren’t you going to the car place?’ and i said ‘you didn’t tell me i was supposed to go to the car place!’ i’m really sorry.”
“it’s okay,” i said.
“so what’s wrong with your car?” she asked as she pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street.
“nothing, really,” i said. “well, i’m getting an oil change, and i’m going on a road trip soon, so i wanted to make sure the car’s in good shape before i leave. i’d rather not be in the middle of montana when i find out that something’s wrong with it.”
“montana, huh? you have friends in montana?”
“oh,” i said, “i’m not just going to montana. i mean, i’ll be going through montana, but i’m pretty much driving all over the u.s.”
“you going with your family?”
“no,” i said, “i’m going by myself.”
“by YOURSELF?” she said. “why you going by yourself?”
who would go with me? who do i know that i could stand to be with for two straight months? “i like being alone,” i said, “and i’m going to try to do some writing.”
“do you have a cell phone?”
i laughed. “yes, i have a cell phone. and triple-a.”
“oh, listen to me,” she said. “don’t i sound like a mom? i say that to my son all the time. he’s in college and i still say, ‘do you have your phone?’ he says, ‘mom, please. i’m twenty years old.’ how long you going to be gone?”
“aren’t you scared?”
“i’m terrified,” i said. it was the first time i’d said it out loud.
“well, just make sure you don’t stay in any sketchy hotels.”
“oh, i won’t. i’m staying with friends in a lot of the cities.”
“well, that’s good. you know, i guess i usually travel by myself, too. if i’m going somewhere in texas, i drive, and if i’m going out of texas, i fly. bad things could happen to you on a plane, too. you could get hijacked or something.”
“yeah,” i said.
“but we don’t have to get into that.”
“that’s just it, though,” i said. “bad things can happen to you even in your house. if you don’t do things because something bad could happen, you’d never do anything.”
“you’re right,” she said as we arrived at the rental place. “i guess that’s why i travel, too.”
you heard it first, rental car lady. i am absolutely scared to death.