Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Four


It is unlikely to surprise anyone who read this the first time I posted that the hotel-toothbrush-experience thing is drawn from real life. And, yes, I did get this odd plastic contraption made out of a credit-card-size piece of plastic and I would have done better to put toothpaste on my finger. I maybe also could just put the toothbrush my dentist gives me into my glove compartment. I feel like the Fred Basset trivia isn’t something I wholly made up, but I think it’s really some other comic strip that only runs Sunday strips for the overseas market. Andy Capp strips used to get extra panels for the American Sunday publications. And there is a fantastic long essay about Andy Capp here that’s made me appreciate that comic more. No sarcasm there. Worth the read.


No, Dan, we are not stopping the car already just because you’re not sure you packed your toothbrush. It can wait. Yes, well, you know where it’s possible to get a toothbrush any time, day or night? Only in every store ever, including freaking Best Buy if you really need.

Sophia explains how you can just ask the front desk at the hotel for a toothbrush. Amanda and Dan insist they just will never have one. Josh says he’s read about how they will, it’s just nobody ever thinks to ask. Sophia insists that they may or may not, it depends on the hotel. All are willing to grant that it doesn’t hurt to ask. Then Josh explains about the time he did ask, and the “toothbrush” they had was just weird. Like, it was this credit-card-size flat thing that unfolded a tiny bit, and it had like eight bristles, and he probably would have been better brushing his teeth with his finger.

The discussion leads naturally to kind of bragging about the biggest glob of toothpaste everyone’s eaten. Also the discovery that Amanda is afraid of swallowing toothpaste because it turns out this is on the boxes? This is fun enough that everyone registers they just passed a funny city-destinations sign but can’t remember what was funny about it.

The party’s definitely travelled a good distance now. It’s not just the third-tier but the second-tier fast-food restaurants that they don’t have back home.

Amanda finds it very significant that this town’s Cheese House specialty cheese shop mascot is very much a ripoff of forgotten Famous Studios cartoon mouse Herman or Katnip, whichever one of them was the mouse. Probably Herman. That would be the less obscure joke to make in naming them. Anyway this is very important to Amanda and she’s not going to let it go until everyone agrees this is an important revelation.

All right, so Dan tosses this out: what if a place like the Outback Steakhouse, only instead of theoretically being Australian, it’s Scottish themed? Nobody actually knows offhand what Scottish food is. “Fried … bladders or something?” offers Josh, who admits he’s maybe thinking of what bagpipes were made of. Not the fried part. But that doesn’t matter. You could serve anything. Just put some fun stuff on the walls.

This feeds into the discovery that Amanda had been to the town where Andy Capp was from. Like, the comic strip Andy Capp. Also that it’s based on a real actual town. There’s a statue of him there and everything, a claim that threatens to be laughed at for miles except that they find pictures of it. With her newfound expertise the party is willing to accept Amanda’s claim that “Andy Capp” is supposed to be a pun on the word “handicap”. She blows it completely when she tries to claim that English newspapers don’t run Fred Basset on Sundays and those strips are made just for the American readers.

OK, but you can agree where it would be correct structuring of a joke if the mouse were named Katnip, right?

Everyone over-plans the next gas station stop. They’re trying to figure how to look casual while timing Dan to see how long he needs to remember to check his toothbrush. Everyone’s disappointed he remembers almost right away, before even going in to the bathroom. He does have his toothbrush, although it’s in the wrong plastic bag. The gas station chains are all weird around here too, although they take the same customer-loyalty card. This is disappointing.

Everyone agrees there is no satisfactory reason why these nachos should be soggy.

Josh finally explains that phone number on the no-longer-sticky note in his glove compartment: he doesn’t know what it is. But it looks a lot like his writing. It must be too important to throw away or else why would he have put it there? Could he call the number and find out who it is? No, absolutely not under any circumstances.

You expect to discover new places when you road trip. You don’t expect to find out how all your friends are freaks.

The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Four


Stage one. Before the trip.
Stage two. Getting started.
Stage three. Seeing malls and sheep.


No, Dan, we are not stopping the car already just because you’re not sure you packed your toothbrush. It can wait. Yes, well, you know where it’s possible to get a toothbrush any time, day or night? Only in every store ever, including freaking Best Buy if you really need.

Sophia explains how you can just ask the front desk at the hotel for a toothbrush. Amanda and Dan insist they just will never have one. Josh says he’s read about how they will, it’s just nobody ever thinks to ask. Sophia insists that they may or may not, it depends on the hotel. All are willing to grant that it doesn’t hurt to ask. Then Josh explains about the time he did ask, and the “toothbrush” they had was just weird. Like, it was this credit-card-size flat thing that unfolded a tiny bit, and it had like eight bristles, and he probably would have been better brushing his teeth with his finger.

The discussion leads naturally to kind of bragging about the biggest glob of toothpaste everyone’s eaten. Also the discovery that Amanda is afraid of swallowing toothpaste because it turns out this is on the boxes? This is fun enough that everyone registers they just passed a funny city-destinations sign but can’t remember what was funny about it.

The party’s definitely travelled a good distance now. It’s not just the third-tier but the second-tier fast-food restaurants that they don’t have back home.

Amanda finds it very significant that this town’s Cheese House specialty cheese shop mascot is very much a ripoff of forgotten Famous Studios cartoon mouse Herman or Katnip, whichever one of them was the mouse. Probably Herman. That would be the less obscure joke to make in naming them. Anyway this is very important to Amanda and she’s not going to let it go until everyone agrees this is an important revelation.

All right, so Dan tosses this out: what if a place like the Outback Steakhouse, only instead of theoretically being Australian, it’s Scottish themed? Nobody actually knows offhand what Scottish food is. “Fried … bladders or something?” offers Josh, who admits he’s maybe thinking of what bagpipes were made of. Not the fried part. But that doesn’t matter. You could serve anything. Just put some fun stuff on the walls.

This feeds into the discovery that Amanda had been to the town where Andy Capp was from. Like, the comic strip Andy Capp. Also that it’s based on a real actual town. There’s a statue of him there and everything, a claim that threatens to be laughed at for miles except that they find pictures of it. With her newfound expertise the party is willing to accept Amanda’s claim that “Andy Capp” is supposed to be a pun on the word “handicap”. She blows it completely when she tries to claim that English newspapers don’t run Fred Basset on Sundays and those strips are made just for the American readers.

OK, but you can agree where it would be correct structuring of a joke if the mouse were named Katnip, right?

Everyone over-plans the next gas station stop. They’re trying to figure how to look casual while timing Dan to see how long he needs to remember to check his toothbrush. Everyone’s disappointed he remembers almost right away, before even going in to the bathroom. He does have his toothbrush, although it’s in the wrong plastic bag. The gas station chains are all weird around here too, although they take the same customer-loyalty card. This is disappointing.

Everyone agrees there is no satisfactory reason why these nachos should be soggy.

Josh finally explains that phone number on the no-longer-sticky note in his glove compartment: he doesn’t know what it is. But it looks a lot like his writing. It must be too important to throw away or else why would he have put it there? Could he call the number and find out who it is? No, absolutely not under any circumstances.

You expect to discover new places when you road trip. You don’t expect to find out how all your friends are freaks.

New Things To Argue About


The Internet is a high-capacity conduit for transmitting outrage from person to person. And yet there are things to be outraged about that you never even suspected to exist, which by itself should be annoying you. Thus we’re doing well so far. Here are some controversies you could get worked up about:

Cleaning The Toothbrush Holder.

Background: If you use one of those plastic cases to hold your toothbrush you’ve probably noticed how it’s got a layer of cruddy substance that we’re comfortable telling ourselves is probably a harmless mold lining the insides, all about an inch past where your longest finger can reach. What’s the best way to clean this out?

The Arguments: One faction claims that the best approach is to set the case into a bowl containing a dilute bleach solution, leave it to soak overnight, and then throw it out. Another maintains that the easiest way to clean it is to set it in the silverware holder through a regular load of the dishwasher, so that the jets of water will cause one or both halves to be popped out of the silverware compartment and get forever lost in the weird, scummy, slightly alarming pool of stuff underneath the spinning plastic blade-y thing. Another faction holds extremely tiny hamsters, but just for the fun of it, because there’s no fitting a hamster in a toothbrush holder.

Vegetarian Spiders.

Background: There’s a species of spider in Costa Rica that, to the surprise of biologists though not the spiders’ chefs, mostly eats plants. All the other 40,000-plus species of spiders are not plant-eaters, so far as they’ve let any nosey humans know. Earlier this week the comic strip Slylock Fox mentioned “spiders do not eat plants”. So: are Slylock Fox cartoonists Bob Weber Senior and Junior ignorant, lazy, or the embodiment of pure evil?

The Arguments: The group most outraged by this incomplete information presents the picture of an impressionable, knowledgeable child, curious about the world, soaking this up as part of a broad understanding of the world; and an embedded seed of faulty information will grow to, say, someday the adult in a hugely public stage, like the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finals, asked to identify the unusual dietary preferences of the Bagheera kiplingi spider of Costa Rica, and be reduced to a panicky mess by having a cherished belief of a life ripped apart at the moment it costs a million dollars. The contrary faction says you may think worse of them for this but that would be kinda awesome TV.

The Edge Of The Galaxy.

Background: So you know how there’s a galaxy out there? If you don’t, step outside a moment — when it’s safe, don’t go interrupting your business piloting a corporate jet to do this — and look around; the spot where you’re looking is part of a galaxy known as the Milky Way because it is not a carbonated soda. Well, where does it end?

The Arguments: One group will argue that the edge of the galaxy can’t be defined because any objects gravitationally bound to the Milky Way are part of it and therefore objects arbitrarily far away will be part of it. Another group argues that they saw that episode of the Original Star Trek and if there were no edge to the galaxy then the show would never have gone to series because they’d just be going off in a straight line through a lot of emptiness for five years. Another faction has managed to progress the dispute so far that it’s now about whether an unambiguous distinction can be drawn between the Thirty Years War and roofing tile.

Sick Board Games.

Background: Do you remember that childhood board game where you get a cartoony figure with a bunch of organs loosely traced out, and you have to roll a die to mark strikes against one of the organs, and when one of them gets three strikes against it that’s the cause of death of your figure? That’s what we’re talking about.

The Arguments: One group insists this is the sickest game that was ever made in the 1970s or any time before or since. Another group insists this game was never made, it was just a dream, and you’re probably the kind of person laughing at the Jeopardy! contestant with the vegetarian spider. You can probably sympathize with both sides.

%d bloggers like this: