Reprinted from the 1969 Road Journal – Holiday Travel edition ( copyright Lou Carreras)
Holiday travel, by thumb, can be a joyful or stressful thing. Often by turns in the same day. At no other time of the year are you likely to find as much generosity or so much danger waiting for you as you stand on the roadside. Rides with Uncle Albert on his way to spew conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassinations are especially poignant. The Albert’s of the world will use your vulnerable situation in the passenger’s seat to rehearse the rhetorical positions they plan on using with aunt Gertrude and her hippy-dippy son. Try not to offer advice on the sneers and harrumphs. Just go with the flow – Albert’s are generally not violent unless cornered.
Needing more subtle skills in deflection are the carload of guys on their way home from college. If they have been drinking on the way, you may be looking at a car wreck. Spotting tips are the glazed eyes, slack features, and the smoky interiors of their cars. Although any actual narcotics may be hidden in the dirty laundry, you’d be wise to avoid riding with them.
Perhaps the most dangerous is aunt Agatha. This older woman is on her way to her sisters with half the holiday meal in the back seat. I was asked once to keep a pot of gravy safe from spilling. Not too hard a job you’d suggest? Aunt Agatha’s idea of driving from Newark to Harrisburg was nonstop tailgating and erratic passing maneuvers. When I left her at a truck stop, I was shaking so severely a concerned state trooper thought I was ODing.
Seemingly innocuous situations can have ugly turnings during the Holidays. People are in a relentless pursuit of happiness at any cost. So turn down any offers to join strangers at their family gatherings. You either wind up being paired with a melancholy cousin who has just lost a suiter or get dragooned into the middle of a religious discussion.
The Holidays are the one time of the year that I encourage my readers to spring for the Greyhound bus or in extremis airfare. The worst that will happen is getting caught in a holiday sing-along or a sentimental conversation.
Good luck, and remember, the objective is to get there safely.