Before setting out for our six-week Great American Road Trip we did what all responsible travelers must do to prepare for the unforeseen dangers and dire emergencies of the highway and we packed our fifty-dollar essential oil diffuser.
I know that some young men out there might be wondering what a diffuser is. But if you are a married man you are probably nodding and saying, “Yes, my wife also spends our hard earned mortgage money on essential oils, too, then pours these oils into a diffuser.”
A diffuser is basically a smell-good machine that sprays out scented fog laced with essential oils that make the air smell like cinnamon and cause you to feel drowsy.
There are supposed health benefits from diffusers. But I can only speak from experience when I say that I have been breathing diffused air for years and I, personally, have received more health benefits from Anheuser-Busch products.
Either way, we do not leave home without our fifty-dollar diffuser.
We do not travel light. My wife could take a one-night trip to her mother’s house and still bring a Coleman cooler, a king-sized comforter, half her hanging clothes, an electric fan, a harpsichord, and of course the diffuser.
The diffuser isn’t usually a problem unless you travel by airline. In which case we put the diffuser in my carry-on bag and it becomes national news.
Whenever I go through airport security, the TSA employees always zero in on this device and squint at it doubtfully, at times even smelling it. Then they glare at me and call in the German shepherds.
But getting back to our road trip. We have been all over the place this last month, doing my one-man show. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Lousianna, Mississippi, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania.
Traveling is hard work. You basically wear the same outfit for days, live out of a suitcase, and sleep on crummy hotel pillows.
Each night before bed, our pet sitter would send cellphone pictures of our bloodhound and alleged Labrador. My wife would look at these photos and become so emotional about our dogs that she would fall asleep clutching her cellphone and forget to refill her diffuser. So I would have to refill it for her.
That’s probably the hardest part about traveling, missing the dogs. Our dogs are our children.
Thelma Lou is our mascot. And Otis Campbell, serves as our vacuum. He patrols our floors for food-like debris, eats it, then vomits it onto the couch for further examination. Then eats it again.
Otis is so vigilant that whenever he hears the sound of our fridge opening, he is already sitting beside you. Whereupon he stares at the floor, waiting for more debris to fall so he can hurry up and get straight to puking. That’s how committed he is to his job.
A few weeks ago, we were in a New York hotel, staring at cellphone pictures of Otis and Thelma. We were homesick and tired. We hadn’t had a single moment to ourselves in days. We’d been driving rental cars, eating airport food, and we were beginning to wear thin.
Each day, I had been delivering a speech in some town. Then we would drive half the night so I could deliver almost the same speech in another town. And so on.
The funny thing is, no audience ever reacts in the same way. Sometimes people are in good moods and laugh at my jokes. At other events such as, for example, continuing education conferences in big hotels, people show as much enthusiasm as medical school cadavers.
Mostly, at conferences, the attendees regard a keynote speaker as the idiot who they have to listen to before they can go to dinner and receive free beverage service.
You can imagine how draining this is for a keynote speaker. So at the end of each night, we would get back to our hotel and collapse on the bed. We would be so tired that we would look at photos of our dogs, get misty-eyed, and stoop to ordering room service.
Which shows you how desperate we were.
Because most room service food tastes like expired school-cafeteria food prepared by Communists without the aid of heat or salt shakers. Even the room-service delivery-person knows your food is going to suck.
He or she is usually so embarrassed that they sprint away before you actually see your food and discover that your hamburger patty is better suited for a National Hockey League championship game.
Before bedtime, you take a shower. And every hotel shower is different. Some have two knobs, where you mix hot and cold water. Others have the one big knob from hell. And it’s an adventure. After about ten minutes fiddling with the knob, you understand what third-degree burns are.
But I am not complaining. I feel very lucky to be doing what I do. I feel fortunate to see the U.S. go by my window at eye-level. To play my songs and tell stories in new places for some very nice people. I feel even more lucky that my wife is beside me.
Even so, as much fun as it has been for these past six weeks, when we pulled into our driveway this morning and heard the familiar barking, I felt good all over.
My cheeks are sore from smiling. And I have the happy, cinnamon-scented feeling that comes from being back home. Or maybe it’s coming from our fifty-dollar diffuser.
Otis just threw up.