SOMEWHERE IN GEORGIA—We are driving two-lane highways that are draped in scenery from the Old South. My wife rolls the window down. It’s perfect morning weather in Georgia.
I’m having a good hair day. This doesn’t happen often, so let us pause and give thanks. I was born with curly hair. I haven’t had a good hair day since the mid 1980s.
We enter a small town. There isn’t much going on here. I wish I knew which town, but I didn’t see the town sign coming in.
You know the sign I’m talking about. The Welcome To Our Little Town sign with all the service-club shields—Rotary Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Freemasons.
And don’t forget the church signs. We pass a million of those. They litter the old highways, just in case any degenerate sinners are looking for a Freewill Baptist church.
There are a lot of denominations to choose from today. We pass a hundred Baptist churches (those who believe in full-immersion baptism), a few hundred Methodist churches (wet-your-hair baptism), a few Presbyterian churches (former Baptists who drink beer), one Church of Christ (we don’t need no stinkin’ piano), Episcopal churches (former Presbyterians who drink Crown Royal), and a Church of God (hairspray).
We ride through tiny towns with churches on each street corner. In one place, I count nine steeples peppering the skyline above the trees. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Norman Rockwell was mayor.
The towns keep coming. I see a small downtown area that looks frozen in time. There is even a deputy walking the sidewalk—and I am not kidding about this—twirling a long keychain around his fingers.
In another town, I see children playing hopscotch in a driveway. I pass a few kids riding bikes that have baseball cards attached to their spokes.
We finally pull over at a cafe. My wife and I are overdue for a stop. We have been on the road since last week. We are on highways a lot. We practically live in hotel rooms.
This has made us experts in the field of miniature complimentary hotel shampoo. I have tried each kind of hotel shampoo out there, and I have discovered many things. The main thing I’ve learned: They suck.
Most shampoos make my hair look like a cross between Arthur Godfrey and the late Bob Ross.
There is an exception, however. Any hotel shampoo made by Neutrogena is pretty good. So whenever we find these shampoos my wife hoards them. If we pass the maid’s cart in the hallway, for example, my wife gets this lunatic look in her eyes and commits theft.
“Cover me,” she will whisper.
Then she pilfers twenty bottles of miniature shampoo, shoves them into her purse, and runs toward the fire exit.
So the small-town cafe is slow. The waitress comes to our table. She asks for our order. The decision is simple because there are only two choices on the menu.
1. The special.
We order two specials. The waitress goes to the kitchen, fires up the grill, and cooks it herself. When our breakfast is ready my eggs are swimming in bacon grease and my coffee is stiff. This is heaven.
We enjoy our meal so much that my wife and I hardly speak. The views from the diner windows are too priceless for conversation.
A few children chase each other on roller skates. An old man walks with a white dog. I hear a distant train whistle. Two teenage boys meander toward home, carrying basketballs. A mail truck is out for delivery. Is that Opie Taylor?
I am in a different era for a few minutes. And I needed this today. Because sometimes the world feels too heavy. Sometimes, it seems like people are too ambitious. People have gotten busier. Technology keeps confusing me.
Twenty-four-hour news channels say everything is falling apart. Newspapers use five pages to describe each crime scene within ten counties, but use only two hundred words to talk about the local 5K fundraiser race for cystic fibrosis. And sometimes it makes me sad.
But not today. Not in this town. Here, none of that exists. At least not right now. Here, I feel fall in the air. I see a cat who has decided to take a nap on a truck hood. I see a woman walk by, carrying a baby.
I pay at the cash register. There are old men eating at the counter. These men are curious about where I’m from. I can see it on their faces.
One old man asks, “Y’all from ‘round here?”
It’s not really a question, per se.
“Florida,” I say. “We’re just passing through.”
“Florida, huh?” another says. “My sister lives in Lake City.”
Another remarks, “Lake City? Hey, that’s where they make the butter, right?”
“No,” another says, “That’s Land O’ Lakes, you idiot.”
He shrugs. “My wife uses unsalted butter now because of my blood pressure.”
“But she still lets you drink coffee?”
He raises a mug. “What she don’t know, won’t kill her”
We get into our vehicle. We drive away. I can see the steeples get smaller in the rear view mirror. The children on bicycles fade into the distance. So does the cafe. I hear another train whistle.
My wife turns to me and says. “You know, your hair looks nice today.”
I guess you never know when you’re going to have a good hair day.
Thank you, Georgia.