The Dostoevsky Lady’s sister was kind enough to give me a lift from Amherst’s tiny station to the rental car place, saving me hours of wandering in circles trailing a bag that had been super-sized from the planned 12 kilos to 21. Perhaps I’d have been better off wandering those circles, because the car rental desk gave me my first experience of the Great American Add-On.
Yes, the car I’d booked was only thirty dollars a day. But sir would need insurance, because every driver in Massachusetts needs that. And a greenhouse gas emissions offset. And a parking ticket surcharge. And a vehicle license cost recovery fee. And I’m sure there was insurance for the insurance. Oh, and there’s state taxes on top of all that. That will be sixty seven dollars a day, sir. And a two hundred dollar security deposit if you wouldn’t mind sir. Have a nice day. If you can afford it now. Yes sir, that’s right, your credit card is now so light you won’t need any help carrying it to your car, will you?
The first two days on the road were the hardest. Brain wants to go on left hand side of road. No, brain, that’s for oncoming traffic. The stuff that will hit you full in the face if you don’t move over to the right. Keep that yellow line next to your side of car and things will progress more smoothly. That’s better.
Now, brain, you’re used to having thirty centimeters of car between your right hand and whatever’s on the right hand side of the road. Over here, it’s four feet, because that’s how much extra car there is when you’re sitting on the left. So if there’s only three feet of car between my right hand and that car parked to my right, there’ll be trouble. Yes, that was a good swerve, thank you. The mirror’s not even broken.
Yes brain, I know the GPS says we’re going south and you say that if we’re going towards the sun we’re headed north, but you’re going to have to get over that, because it’s cold in Alaska, which is where you’ll end up if you don’t recant. If the GPS is good enough to show us the way towards righteousness, we should submit. It saves an awful lot of stopping to look at maps, which make no sense because south is north, even though east is east and west is west.
By the time I’d completed the fourteen miles from Amherst to Holyoke, the GPS had become my guiding star, my Splinter of the True Cross, and had spared me from having a Truly Cross Sphincter. Already I’d been on local roads, state highways, an Interstate, up on-ramps, down off-ramps, up off-ramps and around rotaries. Several times. And now here I was, outside the accommodation I’d booked for my first week. That sweat down my back? Look pal, it’s a hot day, that’s all.