“What was where?” I saw him pull the map off the bookshelf a half hour ago but paid no attention. When he would get bored or grow weary of television, he would pull out his map and just page through it as I would thumb through an Entertainment Weekly. It calmed him down. I liked when he looked at his map.
“I always thought Joshua Tree was further north. Up past Riverside,” he said and I half expected him to slap his forehead. We had been talking about going to Joshua Tree for some time, ever since he received the camping gear and tent in the mail from Marlboro by saving up “miles.” He enlisted everyone he knew to give him the sides of their cigarette packs until he had enough. In fact, he never saw his last Marlboro booty: a CD-playing clock radio and a Discman.
It was part of the parade of things Billy ordered through saving up box tops, sending in coupons or rubbing the silver coating off a prize ticket. He really liked getting stuff in the mail “It gives me something to look forward to!” he explained when I shook my head once with a smile. He was afraid I was thinking it was stupid when I thought quite the opposite. I marveled at his ability to be thrifty, shop wholesale and gain free goodies. “It’s like a game!”
“I know, honey,” I may have sounded patronizing, perhaps it was but I really also thought it adorable. Our home was filled with little plastic action figures, cookware far better than what we purchased for ourselves, and several clock radios. He was not above ordering a Happy Meal for the toy to complete a collection.
When I was trying to map out my trek across America online last night, I flashed on how much I needed Billy’s skills. If Billy were in charge, he would have had the map set, far before any box was packed, and he would have figured out a few silly scenic attractions along the way. He could never pass by a rattlesnake farm but I was always a sucker for those roadside novelties as well.
The aaa.com site was irritating with its cutesy graphic of a put-put clown car emitting exhaust as the loading icon. It proved absolutely worthless. I tried motel6.com, which had a better map, but there was an overriding feeling of agenda attached to it and I wondered how far out of the way I would need to travel for the privilege of staying at their inn. I do like Tom Boddett’s voice, though. Holidayinn.com proved little better and there is something I just don’t trust about Holiday Inns. The greenness of its color theme looks a little threatening.
I would have none of this weighing on me if Billy were here. It wouldn’t even cross my mind. I would just say, “Honey, do you know how we’re going?” He would grab his map and start to show me, in detail, until I said, “Okay, okay. Whatever you say.” That’s the beauty of having a personal cartographer.