September 9, 2022 | CULTURE | By Esa George | Photo by Katherine Beard

You’ve left your driveway, waving goodbye one final time to your mom, your brother, and even your grandfather, who insisted on coming over to offer his exclusive car wash services with bookings only available for his grandchildren.

You hit shuffle on a playlist that you compiled the night before, filled with a bunch of music you want to get into but haven’t had the time yet. This is the time to get into the things you have always wanted to.

By the time you’ve passed the houses of the neighbors you’re familiar with, one of those new songs comes on, but you skip it because you don’t know it and you’re not ready to not know the road ahead just yet.

20 minutes into your drive, you’ve reached the highway, the I-10, and you’re really starting to get into your driving rhythm.

You’re also aware that you lied to your parents about how early you went to bed to reassure them you are well rested enough to drive nine hours that morning. You also left out the part about how you tossed and turned throughout the night anticipating the drive (the bedtime you call 10:00 p.m. became 1:15 a.m.)

You think about how normal a long drive is, and you hope you fall into the group of road trippers out there on the road today who are capable of managing their boredom.

Maybe you realize that you wish there was a to-do list out there for how to manage your road boredom, and if there’s one takeaway from your time spent in the car, it’s that you should start this list for your future unplanned endeavors.

1. See if the estimated time of arrival has somehow miraculously decreased since the last time you glanced at it. Check again. One more time – you start to watch your miles per hour, seeing how the slightest lift of your right foot slows your speed… Then you do the opposite for a little more entertainment: press your foot down a little harder on the gas and watch that number increase… one by one.

You’ll get bored of this for a little while, and that’s when it’s time to move on to number two.

2. Play the state license plate game. I’m just kidding, don’t do it. It’ll drive you crazy as you see the same state after the same state all over again.

3. At some point some “close call” might happen and someone in a particular silver Dodge Dart may switch lanes incredibly close to you, cutting you off, making you stomp a very abrupt right foot onto your brakes, kicking you out of the music-induced daze that an old song memory clouded your judgment and focus. You can blame the 40-something-year-old man in the Dodge Dart for this inconvenience, this brush toward near-probable injury, but after a while of convincing yourself that you did nothing wrong, you should take another swig of the watered-down substance that once called itself iced coffee to really ward off those oncoming and powerful urges to zone out.

By hour four (and a higher number of “close calls” than you’d like to admit) it’s time for a stop, maybe a gas stop, a bathroom break, snack break, or perhaps all of the above.

4. The next couple hours are slow, they may be lonely, but you remind yourself that these are the moments that are meant for the most profound self-discoveries or epiphanies or philosophical debates with yourself — only to catch yourself thinking in a loop about how you should be thinking about something bigger, the bigger picture. But then you convince yourself that it is philosophical in itself to be thinking about how you should be thinking about things. You turn the music up just a little bit to drown out driving yourself to the brink of insanity.

Maybe “Low Driver Attention Detected” flashes across your screen with an image of a cup of coffee projected just below your eye level. You recognize just how long you have been zoned out and how minimal your movement has been on your steering wheel that even your car is calling you out for your boredom. Who knew a car could provoke you like this, make you guilty for zoning out?

5. You notice that you start to miss billboards, missing the things that you had never paid much attention to; you ask yourself what your favorite billboard is. You try to recall all the most frequent billboards you encounter at home. Why can’t you remember any when they’re not there? The Geico ones are fun…maybe the Shen Yun Hollywood Show advertisements plastered throughout the highways of LA instill a feeling of longing to be home in you. If you had a billboard all to yourself, what would be on it? That’s a great question. Let me think about that for a second!

6. And before you know it, you’re approaching your final two hours. These are the hours where every song you hear must serve a purpose, otherwise, you could be wasting your time. It is too late now for a podcast, for a phone call. You’ve just had dinner and you cannot drink any more coffee for you’ll need sleep for tomorrow. This is when you watch the clock — watch the ETA the closest you have all day.

7. And just before you get to your overnight stop, think about how you’re going to do it all again tomorrow, and whether you like it or not, for that’s the fun of the road and a solo trip on the road!

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