Guest Blogger: Lost in Conway (153rd new thing).

September 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve always wanted a guest blogger, someone to take away the stress of detailing every new experience in what I hope is a entertaining manner. So I’ve enlisted Patrick to write about Day One Hundred Fifty-Three’s new activity, as he was just as affected (if not more) than I was.

In the words of Patrick Hill:

I. One of my favorite drives starts north of Columbia, SC headed towards Sumter on highway 378 and culminates in my family’s annual vacation in Litchfield Beach along the South Carolina coast. Right before Sumter, I get off of 378 and then pass through a succession of one stoplight towns like Wedgefield, Pineville, Greeleyville, and Andrews before taking a sharp left turn in Georgetown onto Ocean Hwy towards Litchfield.

I don’t know the numbers of the state highways passing through the Pee Dee region of the state. I just look for the next familiar town name and head that way. I’ve been making the drive every year since 1996 and I’ve never, ever made a wrong turn.

This area of the state is flush with the fertile farmland for which South Carolina is famous. The rural highways gently twist by fields of immaculate rows of crops, by long abandoned country stores, and by untouched tin shacks that feel like they’ve been there forever. It’s the sort of drive that leads to music being played at high volume and downed windows to allow the humid and increasingly salty southern air to blow in (or cigarette smoke to blow out in my more angsty days).

I don’t have family from these particular parts, but both sides of my family have deep roots in rural South Carolina. It’s a drive good for reflection, it’s a drive good for going a little too fast and carefully passing truck over dotted yellow lines, and it’s a drive good for stopping for boiled peanuts and having them fed to you while you shift gears around another meandering curve.

Sure there is the excitement of getting to my final destination, but I’ve always counted the drive as part of the trip. I even leave the windows down as we pass by the odious Georgetown Paper Mill, a last blight of urban nuisance before finally reaching official vacation status.

This year, in an act of unyielding selflessness, I let Laura have the pleasure of making this portion of our drive. We left Atlanta early, so I took the first leg of the journey to allow her a little extra beauty sleep. After our usual pit stop at Andy’s Deli, I turned the keys over to my dear and looked forward to enjoying the views from the passenger seat of our rented Ford Focus.

I’m not sure Laura knew to be all that excited.

II. The fact of Laura’s driving is a significant detail because of this: In our relationship, we really, really like to find a way to blame the other person when we mess something up ourselves. I’m sure you just lost a bit of respect for the two of us after reading that last sentence and that’s OK, but it really works for us. As the mistake making member of the relationship (in this example, it will be me) hurriedly scans his or her brain trying to find a way that our mistake was our significant other’s fault, the one who is to blame even more excitedly comes up with a way to mock that person’s attempt to blame them. It’s normally hilarious and nine times out of ten diffuses the situation. Especially when Laura is doing the mocking as she is quite good at it. Or, at least, she is when I’m the one to be shamed. It’s a game not unlike “6 degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and we play it often.

A reverse example: Laura is sweeping the floor in the living room when she accidentally steps on a sewing needle absent-mindedly left by last night’s new thing. “Shit!” she yells in my direction.

“Are you OK?”

“Well, yeah, but I never would’ve stepped on this if you didn’t make my sweep the floor.”

“Really, I made you sweep the floor?” I’d mockingly state. “Is that really the best you can do?”

Like I said, Laura is much better at the mocking part of the equation. I just wanted to show that it is possible the scenario plays out in this manner.

III. We got lost on the way home from the beach this year and I was the one driving.

As a dude, I’m always on the lookout for a better route. As everyone knows, a man that can find a shortcut is a much more stable provider for his family and probably cheers for a better sports team than the next guy over. I thought I had found one when visiting Kenley’s parents on previous side trips into Georgetown.

Not bothering to research my new path before we left, I quickly turned onto the diagonal road off of Ocean Highway dreaming of whole minutes saved from our trip. I was so confident of this route that I challenged Laura to a round of the alphabet game as we’d soon be on the reverse course through low country South Carolina I cherished so much (even on the way back, it’s a great drive…though I always seem to get caught in a really bad storm or get stuck in between towns when I realize how bad I have to go to the bathroom).

The next town is only about 30 minutes (or 28 with this great new route!) from Georgetown and we’d been gone about that long when Laura quit our game to rest her eyes for a minute. No longer scanning the side of the street for words that began with “q,” I noticed that this part of the drive didn’t seem as familiar as it should have. I really knew something was wrong when I saw a directional sign for highway 378.

“Huh?”

“What?”

But I kept driving. Mostly because I’m stubborn, but also because I’ve never, ever made a wrong turn on this drive. Then I saw a sign for Conway, and it was only 20 or so miles away and that seemed somehow plausible, so I just kept driving straight.

Note: If you are from South Carolina or have done this drive before, you now know that I’m headed in completely the opposite direction. Yes, Conway, is the last town you hit before you get to the beach, but only if YOU ARE GOING TO MYRTLE BEACH, THE FREAKIN’ ARMPIT OF THE STATE. If you are going anywhere south of Myrtle Beach (to Litchfield, for example), you pass through Andrews before you hit Georgetown, and then the beach.

As we pulled into Conway, I had started to become a bit frantic. My stubbornness had begun to turn into anger, as I was pretty sure I was no longer in the right place.

I scanned road signs for an indication of the next town as I was supposed to drive through, but I didn’t see any familiar names. I woke Laura up and demanded she pull up the GPS on her phone. How dare she have been asleep when I obviously am incapable of replicating a process I’ve done a dozen times before!

My heroic and masculine attempts at timesaving had failed. My confidence withered, I frustratingly refuted any of the suggestions Laura dutifully recited from her phone. Finally, I stopped in a parking lot in downtown Conway to catch my breath and the realization of what I had done finally sunk in.: my two minute shortcut had led me an hour in the complete opposite direction from Atlanta.

While a brief conversation with my Mom, still in Litchfield, confirmed the truth I continued to fume inside the car.

“Damn it, Laura! If I hadn’t have let you drive on the way I here, I’d obviously would have remembered that wasn’t the right way”

A familiar smirk began to spread across Laura’s face. “Is that right? Well, if it makes you feel any better, out of all the things I’ve done in my life I’ve never, ever been lost in Conway, SC before. I guess this will be my new thing for today.”

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