I used to love going on road trips because usually it meant we were going to my Grannie's house in Oklahoma. As I got older they got more and more depressing for some reason. I think it has something to do with driving by the little clusters of Cracker Barrels, Super 8s, and Shell stations that are the only symbols of an actual settlement beyond, with grocery stores and places to get your oil changed, see a doctor, and go to school. Whenever I see these things I think "I'm so glad I don't live there."
So tonight when I was eating my dinner at the Cracker Barrel, looking out at the interstate, I realized that do live in one of those towns. There's the Shell station, and there? There's the La Quinta, Super 8 is around the corner. There are all those things here that allow me to never have to even get on the interstate, just cross over it once or twice. I can make money, buy food, raise my children, grow old and never have to leave this 15 square mile patch of planet, and that's what it is that I think depresses me about these towns. Some people like them, there is a certain security in them and I can see that, even wish I could feel it. For me, I look at them and imagine the high school cheerleader cruising 5th Street, or Main Street, or whatever street it happens to be, the college kids doing laundry at Mom and Dad's - on weeknights, the kids who went to the same daycare getting married, the insurance agents, the hairdressers, the old people with gardens, and I think it seems so... the same. Every town you pass on the interstate is exactly the alike, with only small variations.
I've said before that, for some reason, I tend to measure success in miles from the town where you were born. It just seems like the farther you are from where you started, the further you've gone... in life. I was born in St. Louis so according to MapQuest I'm 371.89 miles successful, only I'm really kind of in the same place. That same small town with it's chain hotels by the interstate, the young people determined to leave, and the old people determined to stay, and that damn Cracker Barrel where every once in a while a woman in her late 20's will plan to eat pancakes at 6 PM and find herself staring out at the road and reevaluating her life, her definition of success, and her desire to eat pancakes at all.