Although I’ve gotten much better about being aware of my surroundings since being out, I’m still in fairly unfamiliar territory. I can walk across a truck stop parking lot with a decent amount of confidence I won’t get backed over or plowed down (unless it’s the bombed out mess of a parking lot at a certain establishment in Arkansas, which shall remain nameless — the Terminator couldn’t walk across that treachery without fearing mortal injury). I’m also much better at getting into the correct truck. I only scared the beejeejees out of one poor man in Louisiana this time. I still do inadvertently goofy things, I’m just no longer in danger of getting a dirt nap doing them.
We were in New Mexico stopped for the night. I have to say that New Mexico is a fantastically beautiful place. I saw the most breathtaking sunset of my life there (pictured). I saw colors in the sky and on the plateaus I’ve never seen before. It was incredible. I wanted nothing more than to get out and explore, but I had two fiction stories to write. George got out to stretch his legs and give me some quiet time so I could concentrate.
I got into writing mode. I have a ritual when I write, I put my headphones in and start my playlist with the song ‘”Bennie and the Jets.” This is subliminal Jedi stuff — the ever elusive and sometimes famous Max Heine once told me it was one of his favorite Elton John songs, so I always play it first to help remember the writing tips I’ve gotten from the master. He and Todd (Dr. Who) Dills (the other editor who is kind enough — or possibly forced — to help me learn this craft) will probably attest to the fact that it’s a complete failure, but I like the song and I needed to use the word Jedi at least once in this post.
I was reading some work back to myself, rubbing my fingertips with my thumbs (another ritualistic gesture I have — when I’m stuck I rub my fingers, which looks sinister and weird, but I can’t help it so I’m just going to quit telling you about my rituals now). I had the headphones’ volume up pretty loud and my most favorite Tom Petty song in the whole wide world came on. I started singing along the way you only sing along when you’re alone — loud and like you’re some kind of rock star. You’re thinking the whole time, “I could totally nail this song in front of a million people, why am I not a rock God?” You know you do it. You have a dance and facial expressions and everything. Don’t lie.
“OH YEAH!! ALLRIGHT! TAKE IT EASY BAAABY, MAKE IT LAST ALL NIGHT!! SHE WAS…AN AMERICAAAAN GIIIRL!!!!”
I sang the whole damn song and rocked it. I knew I wasn’t going to get any writing done because I had already thrown the chicken bones on the floor, and they told me I wasn’t. (You guys probably really believed that last part, but I totally don’t throw chicken bones on the floor. George makes me put a paper towel down.) Kidding!
I climbed out to go find George and noticed a couple of guys staring at the truck. They were looking at it like something was terribly wrong, so I turned around to see if it was on fire or something. To my horror, the wing vents were wide open. I had not only been sitting directly under the wing vents singing like a maniac, I was screaming lyrics that, when heard without the benefit of the actual music, could be misconstrued as something less than virtuous.
That wasn’t the best part. The parking lot was huge and flat and I don’t know if you know this or not, but sound travels really well in the desert. It didn’t help that there was a giant metal tank directly behind the truck, working better than Robby Kreiger’s amp to broadcast my absolutely fantastic rendition of “American Girl” to the entire parking lot.
Had I not needed to use the bathroom, I would have gotten right back in the truck and hidden in the closet. Hardly anyone was idling, everyone had their windows open — it gets cool in the desert in the evening. I knew the whole row had heard me. I pulled my ball cap down and tried to make myself as small as possible while walking past the other trucks. I prayed to God the people sitting in them would have the decency not to stare at the crazy woman. I scurried toward the building.
“Why that was right nice, ma’am. Thank you for singin’ me to sleep!”
I. Was. Horrified. I wanted more than anything to flee but my damn stupid Southern manners wouldn’t let me be rude to someone thanking me for something.
“Uh, that was an accident you’re welcome I’m going to find my husband I’m sorry…”
I pulled my hat down even further, made myself smaller and loped towards the bathroom. It’s incredibly difficult to simultaneously run and attempt to make yourself disappear by drawing all of your appendages into your trunk like a giant turtle. I had taken on the “terrified troll meets sunlight” look as I dashed for cover. Definitely not one of my finer moments. Needless to say, I’m very careful to check the wing vents before concert performances now. Live and learn, people. Live. And. Learn.