Drivers' Corner - Knight of the Highway
Chapter XII: Bathtubs and Soap Suds
I rarely have the opportunity to take a bath and am usually left with only the option of a shower. I have a bathtub at the house, but I never sit long enough to take one. It seems I am so used to the road that I would almost be lost figuring what to do with myself. My dad laughs sometimes seeing me on my home time just sitting in my truck staring out the windshield listening to the radio in my driveway. It's a relief to get off the road, but somehow my truck has become my security blanket, like Linus from Peanuts.
I switched the television in the hotel room to CMT as the sound of hot bubbling water filling the bathtub and a blanket of steam came billowing out of the bathroom doorway. I knew the water would be too hot. I always end up making the water too hot out of habit because of the small water heater we had as kids. It seemed you could run straight hot water and by the time the tub was filled the temperature was only lukewarm. In hotels, the water usually stays piping hot and I always wondered whether I would receive third degree burns one day from my habit. It dawned on me that I should add more cold water, but I never have changed the habit. After the initial shock of burning the tar out of my skin, the heat seems to relax me and I sit until wrinkles form on my hands, making them look a hundred years old.
I turned the volume up to where I would be able to hear the television in the bathroom--and at the same time not hear knocking on the door or walls from protests. I forced my first foot in and worked my second in, hopping like a frog. Finally I made the sudden move to immerse my whole body and, as my skin turned hot pink, I figured one of these days I needed to change my habit before I hurt myself. As usual, the bath did the trick and relaxed my body. It was a wonder I didn't take more of them, but maybe they would lose the impact if used too often.
I lay there, immersed, staring up at a water stain on the ceiling above the showerhead while thinking over the conversation I had with Alice earlier tonight. By the time I got back to New York my two weeks notice would be up, but I told my supervisor I'd hold out until I get back to Phoenix to turn in the truck. That was probably a big mistake. He'd probably route me everywhere but Phoenix and see how many months it took before I protested. Or perhaps he hoped the time would give me enough second thoughts to call and tell him to forget the notice and I would stay on. The hard part was that I was already having second thoughts. They started from the moment I got off the phone from giving the notice. Now that I got a dose of Alice I wasn't so sure of my future plans with Kathy or getting a local job back home.
Well, with the extra time frame for delivery due on the weekend, I told Alice I would be here a couple days. I was pleased she had volunteered to show me the town, though from the looks of things I had already seen it. I spent many times traveling through towns like this one where if you blinked you'd miss it. I always wondered to myself how someone could ever live in a town that small and remain sane after a few years. I figured Alice must not be completely in her right mind, especially if she actually wanted to spend time with a half burnt-out, weary driver. Perhaps she was a glutton for punishment, paying off her past sins or something to that effect.
By the time the water cooled off and my skin had formed into an overgrown raisin, I realized I hadn't soaped myself over yet. I decided to do it later and popped the drain switch with my toes. The water started receding down my body as the gurgling sound of the drain told me to get out before I end up going down it too. I almost popped the drain shut again to refill the tub with hot water, but decided it was time to turn in.
I never bothered throwing anything on, just plopped on the bed and played channel jump on the remote. Whenever I rented a hotel room with free cable it seemed I needed to watch as much as possible so as not to miss out on money spent. Usually by the time I finished a movie and realized the time I could have slept I felt more foolish than prudent. It felt good to be snuggled underneath the sheets and a thick comforter with the old-shows channel playing sitcoms from my childhood. Maybe I was ready to get off the road and have a normal life where I could sleep in a bed in a house at night. I laughed quietly as I thought of having to build some type of device that would make my bed vibrate like a running truck so I could actually fall asleep.
By midnight I was tired of watching the television and threw on a pair of boxers. I went over to the window and pulled open the drapes. I sat there in the chair with my feet propped up on the table and my cigarette's cherry glowing back through the reflection in the window glowing brighter each time I inhaled. I watched as headlights and taillights streamed by in irregular intervals. What would next week bring? Should I take the Greyhound or just use my thumb to get back home from Phoenix. Should there be a next week of turning in my truck or should I just keep the pedal down, like the icon from the sixties, "Keep on truckin'"?
I woke up to daylight and wondered how many people walked by my windows while I slept there in boxers with my feet propped up on the table. I was too drained each time I woke to adjust positions to make the simple trip to the bed. I drew the drapes and decided it was time to soap up, but this time by means of a shower.
Later, and a bit cleaner, I walked in the cafe and soon was greeted by Alice asking if I was ready for a fun day. I thought to myself, what is a fun day in a town like this? Well, if Alice was the host anything was bound to be fun!